‘People are anxious’: Grand Strand dermatologist reacts to taking over 50,000 patient records

Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 7:13 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Earlier this week South Carolina experienced a first, when the state’s medical board assigned custody of patients from one dermatology office that closed, to another.

Dr. Brandon Coakley, the owner of Waccamaw Dermatology, is now in charge of about 50,000 patient records from the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center of South Carolina.

The South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners recently became aware that the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center of South Carolina, located on Highway 17 Bypass in Myrtle Beach, abruptly closed, without notifying its patients.

The last day it was open was on Feb. 17 and was expected to reopen on Feb. 20 under new ownership, but the transfer of ownership didn’t take place and the office never reopened.

It’s now been closed for more than 40 days.

The center was owned by Dr. Joseph Masessa who died on Nov. 1, 2019, in a plane crash.

An order, released by the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Monday says since the death of Masessa, an unnamed family member, who lives in New Jersey, had been operating the practice but that family member wasn’t a licensed physician in South Carolina.

That office is in the same building at Coakley’s and according to Coakley has operated from its office space for the last ten years.

It wasn’t until earlier this year Coakley said his office staff realized there were issues.

”About early February we had patients showing up at our door with stitches in place, and they said their doctor’s office had closed. So we found out from the patients that the dermatology down the hall here had closed and these patients were seeking care,” said Coakley.

The order states that the Board of Medical Examiners was never contacted about the closure and the board has not heard from the family member.

WMBF found out that the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center of South Carolina does have an active business license with Horry County, but that license expires on April 30, 2023. If the county does not get a response by May 1, the license will become delinquent.

WMBF tried to get in contact with the office but was not able to.

“We reached out to that office for patient records, biopsy reports, all that and we haven’t been able to get a response,” said Coakley, who only found out about his custody appointment a few days before the order was published.

Right now, Coakley said the challenge is waiting on all of the records to be transferred over to his office, which he said could take several more days.

“While I am technically the custodian for all those records now, I don’t have them yet. So we’re working as fast as we can, in constant communication with the legal departments for all of those electronic medical companies to make sure we can access those records and then provide them to patients as appropriate,” said Coakley.

While Coakley said Waccamaw Dermatology is accepting new patients currently, former Dermatology and Skin Cancer patients do not have to choose Waccamaw for care.