A longtime physician facing multiple criminal charges in Florida has closed his Columbus medical practice.
George Tkalych, who for almost 30 years has been an ear, nose and throat doctor here, was arrested in November in Walton County, according to Florida State Attorney records the Ledger-Enquirer obtained. He was charged with felony trafficking illegal drugs, possession of controlled substances outside of original container and driving under the influence.
On Dec. 31, Tkalych shut down his practice at Suite 201 of Columbus’ 10th Avenue Medical Plaza. The office remained open until Thursday for patients to retrieve medical records.
Columbus attorney Chris Meacham, who’s helping Tkalych close the practice but is not involved in his criminal defense, said the office closing is not related to the Florida case.
According to Florida State Attorney records, Tkalych was involved in a two-vehicle accident Nov. 29 while driving to his second home in Destin.
After his Chevy Tahoe sent another vehicle into a ditch, he refused a drug and alcohol test, and state troopers called area police to verify his sobriety, records show.
Tkalych was arrested and charged with DUI, and three hours later requested an officer retrieve his high-blood pressure medicine, authorities reported. High-blood pressure was one of two medical issues that came up during Tkalych’s sobriety tests, and that was the only medicine the doctor mentioned using, according to investigators.
But their report says they found six more drugs inside Tkalych’s two briefcases, most in unlabeled pill bottles or in bottles for other medications — including more than 130 hydrocodone pills, 4 grams of Lunesta, 4 grams of Cialis, 6 grams of Nexium and 32 grams of Escitalopram. They said Tkalych had two blood-pressure medicines — 14 grams of Benicar and 4 grams of Bystolic.
Police said they also found a .38-caliber pistol and a prescription pad. The gun was legally registered.
Before requesting an attorney, Tkalych admitted to taking one or two of the hydrocodone pills sometime before the crash, according to the report.
He was charged with trafficking illegal drugs, possession of controlled substances without prescriptions, and DUI with property damage, authorities said. Released on a $25,000 bond, he has hearings scheduled for February and March, records show.
He is being represented by Florida attorney Clay Adkinson, who could not be reached for comment Thursday. If convicted of trafficking illegal drugs, Tkalych under Florida law faces at least three years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.
Tkalych will have a review hearing Feb. 21. His case is set for trial March 21, according to the state attorney’s office.
Two weeks after his arrest, Tkalych ran a Ledger-Enquirer ad giving notice his practice was closing because of his health complications.
“All good things must (at sometime) come to an end,” read the ad, explaining Tkalych’s ill health had affected the quality of his care and had “conflicted with the standard of care (he strives) to provide.”
Meacham said Tkalych would not comment on the Florida arrest or the office closing.
Health problems made the situation difficult for Tkalych, Meacham said. Tkalych has dealt with multiple surgeries, including two knee surgeries. Meacham said Tkalych’s most recent surgeries forced him into retirement.
“He’s had a rough time over the last couple of years,” Meacham said. “I know one way he attempted to keep going with his practice was to pop a pill. A lot of care providers have that problem.”
Meacham said he did not know whether Tkalych had a prescription for the hydrocodone.
Tkalych’s medical license had no disciplinary restrictions as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Georgia Composite Medical Board.