No medical practice in the home, city says

Doctor of osteopathy David. Z. Levine will have to hunt for a new home for his practice now that the Port Orchard City Council has rejected his bid to work out of his home.

On Monday, the City Council voted 6-1 to reject Levine’s application for a conditional-use permit that would allow him to run a medical practice in his Cedar Canyon Place residence.

Levine has been seeing patients in his home since May and said he wanted to continue the arrangement until he was able to build up his practice.

“I want to keep it low key for the time being,” Levine said.

Although he currently sees an average of five patients a day, Levine had asked the city council for permission to see up to 15 patients a day. He said two part-time assistants, one who lives in the neighborhood and would walk to work, would make up his entire staff.

Levine estimated the bulk of the office’s traffic could be handled by the two on-site driveways, with limited street parking for overflow. Some neighbors, however, were concerned an active medical practice would, at peak times, generate more traffic then the quiet, dead-end street could handle.

“Parking is (already) a problem,” said Cedar Canyon resident Gary Douthit. “The cars that go there currently do not park in the driveway, they park in the street.”

The Port Orchard Planning Commission recommended the council deny Levine’s application because it felt a doctor’s practice was incompatible with the character of the surrounding neighborhood. The commission also raised concerns over proper disposal of bio-hazard waste. Both concerns were echoed by the council as well.

“It’s not a part-time occupation,” said Councilman Ron Rider. “He needs to go look for some permanent office space.”

The city currently has no doctors operating out of their homes and Levine said he heard this would have been the first time the city had approved such an arrangement.

Levine said he plans to ask the council to reconsider. He said he had to leave his former offices on Jackson and Lund in 2001 for insurance reasons — “I was working harder every year and making significantly less money,” he said — and now operates largely on a self-pay system. Levine declined to say whether he had the financial means to rent office space, saying only: “I’m not a rich doctor.”

Levine is currently practicing under a stayed license suspension imposed by the Washington state Department of Health. Although he said the stayed suspension, which amounts to a type of probation, has not influenced his decision to work out of his home, the DOH ruling does put significant restrictions on Levine’s practice.

For instance, Levine must use a Health Board-approved and trained chaperone whenever he sees female patients. He must also participate in private sex offender treatment programs. In order to have the stayed suspension lifted, Levine will have to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation with a Board-approved mental health practitioner.

The stayed suspension, which went in effect in December 2001 and will remain in place at least until 2006, was imposed as a result of numerous allegations of sexual and professional misconduct which reportedly took place between 1996 and 2000. In addition to the stayed suspension, Levine was also required to pay a $12,000 fine for his actions.

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