Tonasket doctor cited for possession

TONASKET – Doctor William Lewis Dienst, Jr. was cited for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia after being discovered with marijuana at North Valley Hospital on Wednesday, Feb. 23.

“On Feb. 23, at approximately 7:57 p.m., I received a call from dispatch stating that there was a possible drug problem at the North Valley Hospital,” Tonasket Police Officer Jim Wright wrote in his report. “I responded and spoke with the hospital staff and they informed me there was a strong smell of marijuana coming from a room in the basement. I accompanied the hospital director to the on-duty emergency room doctor’s sleeping quarters.”

Wright’s report continued, Dienst was in the room the smell was coming from and answered the door when Wright knocked. When Wright asked Dienst if he had been smoking marijuana or any other drugs inside the hospital, he originally said no he hadn’t, Wright wrote.

“I explained the reason for contacting him was the strong odor coming from the room he was in,” Wright wrote. “Then Dienst admitted he had been smoking a small amount of marijuana inside the hospital. Dienst willingly gave me a glass pipe with residue and a small baggy of what he said was marijuana.”

Wright wrote that he issued Dienst criminal citation number 0003401 for possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. The baggy tested positive for marijuana and weighed in at .2 grams.

NVH Administrator Linda Michel said Dienst was not an employee of the hospital at this time and was instead under contract with Coast-to-Coast.

“I know he will never be back at NVH,” Michel said. “That’s a promise Coast-to-Coast made to us.”

Paula Silha, MD, the clinic account manager for Coast-to-Coast Health Services providing staff for NVH said Dienst was a physician at NVH for 15 years and that when Coast-to-Coast came to NVH, he was one of the local doctors kept on contract.

“He’s on indefinite suspension,” Silha said. “He’s in treatment right now with a counselor. Dienst made a bad choice; he understands that and he had no problem going into treatment. Based on what his counselor says and what the state recommends, he could be working in up to one year. We’re not turning our backs on him but trying to help him with his problem. Some people don’t admit when they have a problem and I’m really proud of Dienst for admitting to his problem and seeking help. This was an issue we did not know about when entered into a contract with him.”

The charges against Dienst have been filed with the Okanogan County District Court and he is scheduled for arraignment on Monday, April 11. This will be his first appearance in court.