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Texas doctor suspended for spreading COVID-19 misinformation and refusing to treat vaccinated patients, hospital says

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A doctor has been suspended from treating patients at a Houston hospital for spreading COVID-19 misinformation online and for refusing to treat patients who were vaccinated, a hospital representative said. 

Dr. Mary Bowden had recently joined the medical staff at Houston Methodist hospital, a representative for Houston Methodist Hospital told CBS News via email, and was suspended before she had ever admitted a patient at the hospital.

Bowden is using her social media accounts to express her personal and political opinions about the COVID-19 vaccine and treatments, the representative said, adding that the opinions are "harmful to the community, do not reflect reliable medical evidence or the values of Houston Methodist."

Bowden has used her Twitter account to share her opinions about COVID-19, mainly about the drug ivermectin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued has health advisories about ivermectin, reiterating that it does not treat or prevent COVID-19. The drug is commonly used to treat parasites in humans and animals. The National Institutes of Health has determined there is "insufficient data" to recommend the drug for COVID prevention and treatment, and the FDA has not approved it for such uses either. 

The hospital has treated more than 25,000 COVID-19 inpatients, the representative said. Staff members are vaccinated to protect patients, and while Bowden told the hospital she was vaccinated, she emailed patients saying she would only treat the unvaccinated, the representative said. 

"Despite what she has posted, Houston Methodist does not and will never deny care to a patient based on vaccination status," the spokesperson said. "Dr. Bowden, who has never admitted a patient at Houston Methodist Hospital, is spreading dangerous misinformation which is not based in science."

Three COVID-19 vaccines are available for adults in the United States – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The Pfizer vaccine is available for anyone older than 5 years old. Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history, and they are safe and effective, the CDC says.

Bowden is an ear, nose and throat and sleep medicine doctor at BreatheMed in Houston. She is also involved in a lawsuit with another hospital over the use of ivermectin. The family of Jason Jones is suing Texas Health Huguley Hospital to allow Bowden to administer ivermectin. Jones has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for over a month and the hospital says ivermectin would be medically inappropriate, according to the Forth Worth Star Telegram.

A trial court issued an order that would give Bowden temporary privileges at the hospital, and the hospital has appealed to block it. The case is now on hold, the newspaper reports. CBS News has reached out to Texas Health Huguley Hospital for comment and is awaiting response.

On her practice's website, Bowden posted earlier this month that she is "shifting my practice focus to treating the unvaccinated." 

"In order to make room for unvaccinated who cannot find care, I will not be accepting new patients with routine ENT problems who are vaccinated," she said, adding she will continue to care for established patients and won't turn away anyone with life-threatening illness, based on their vaccination status. She also wrote that she is not anti-vaccination.

In an interview with the iHeart Radio show "Houston's Morning News" on Monday, she said she has been practicing since 2003.

Bowden told the show she has "loose" ties with Houston Methodist and is not an employee, but had privileges there in case one of her patients needed to be admitted. 

On the radio show, she said she will no longer send her patients to the Methodist emergency room.

The doctor also said she has received a complaint from the Texas Medical Board and she is sure she will see "many complaints" from them about her COVID-19 treatment. 

In a statement to CBS News, Bowden said she first heard of her suspension when the Houston Chronicle reached out for her to confirm it. "No one from Methodist bothered to pick up the phone and talk to me about their concerns," she said, adding that she received an email about the suspension from a hospital staff member she had never met before. "I've been very disappointed with how Methodist has handled this." CBS News has reached out to Houston Methodist for comment.

"I don't consider myself dangerous, and I submitted my letter of resignation to them this morning," Bowden told CBS News. "I have been overwhelmed by the positive support I've received from my patients and from people around the world thanking me for standing up for my beliefs.  This will not alter my practice and I will continue to treat COVID early and aggressively."

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