The Texas Medical Board has suspended the license of a child psychiatrist under investigation for allegedly sexually abusing mentally ill patients while working at Austin State Hospital.
The board decided during an unscheduled Tuesday hearing to order 59-year-old Dr. Charles Fischer to stop practicing, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Documents filed as part of the board's decision show the doctor has been accused of sexually abusing nine patients, more than previously reported.
Fischer has not been charged with a crime. Fischer's attorney Antonio Cobos did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment Wednesday. He has previously said Fischer "vehemently" denies the accusations. Fischer can appeal the board's decision.
The Texas Rangers, the attorney general's office, the Austin Police Department and the Office of Inspector General for the Health and Human Services Commission are jointly investigating the allegations.
The board said Fischer presented a "continuing threat to the public welfare."
According to the board's order of temporary suspension, seven patients aged 13 and 17 accused Fischer of sexual abuse between 2001 and 2006. A Travis County grand jury heard accusations of sexual abuse of a child against Fischer in 2002 but didn't charge him.
An eighth accusation came from a 16-year-old who said he was abused in 1992 at the Waco Center for Youth. A ninth patient accused Fischer of abusing him in a San Antonio institution.
"It's definitely an extreme measure," Leigh Hopper, a spokeswoman for the medical board, said of the suspension order. "You have to have a certain level of evidence."
The board issues such suspensions about 12 times a year, but it's usually only done if a physician has a substance abuse problems or is facing criminal charges, Hopper said.
Fischer was fired from his job at the state hospital earlier this month. There had been other similar accusations during the 21 years he worked at the hospital, all of which had been investigated, according to the Texas Department of Family Protective Services. The department said it had been unable in the past to find sufficient evidence to corroborate the claims.
In October, the department told the hospital that it had confirmed two cases of sexual abuse during a five-month investigation. Fischer had been allowed to work with children while he was under investigation, but he was not allowed to touch patients or provide counseling behind closed doors.
Once the department told the hospital it believed it had sufficient evidence to confirm at least two cases, Fischer was suspended from his job. He was officially fired on Nov. 14.