Skin doctor leaves patients in lurch; Whidbey General Hospital hurries to find replacement

Dr. Donald Johnson - Courtesy photo
Dr. Donald Johnson
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Whidbey General Hospital officials are scrambling to find a dermatologist to serve the island after Dr. Donald Russell Johnson abruptly closed the doors to his Coupeville office without warning two weeks ago.

Johnson also shuttered his swanky Island Medical Spa businesses in both Coupeville and Anacortes, as well as his Anacortes practice.

The sudden moves left rumors swirling in Coupeville, but the truth behind the unexpected closures may indeed be unusual. Court documents in two different cases suggest that Johnson was either married to two different women or that the woman who claimed to be his wife was not actually married to him.

Divorce-related documents suggest that he fell into debt while enjoying a lavish lifestyle.

Tim Slavin, an investigator with the Washington State Medical Quality Assurance Commission, said he is investigating complaints involving Johnson, but couldn’t give any details. In addition, he said he’s working to get Johnson’s patients copies to their medical records.

Trish Rose, spokeswoman for Whidbey General, said hospital leaders were surprised and concerned after hearing about Johnson’s sudden disappearance.

“It affects the community and the hospital is always concerned about health care access in the community,” she said.

She said hospital leaders immediately tried to contact Johnson after learning that his Whidbey Dermatology office had closed, but nobody could find him. She explained that Johnson wasn’t employed by the hospital, but has privileges to see patients there.

Hospital CEO Tom Tomasino has been working to find a dermatologist to serve the community, or at least those patients with the most serious or life-threatening issues, on an interim basis. He’s meeting with officials at Skagit Valley Hospital on Monday to discuss the problem.

A sign on the door of the Island Medical Spa states that it will reopen Monday under new management.

In the meantime, a limited liability corporation called RSDT Development filed a lawsuit against Johnson, his wife and another woman in Island County Superior Court on July 19. The complaint demands that Johnson pay $98,000 in unpaid rents, late charges and other charges on the two buildings that housed Island Medical Spa and Whidbey Dermatology on South Main Street in Coupeville. An unlawful detainer action was filed separately.

The lawsuit, written by Oak Harbor attorney Jacob Cohen, names Langley resident Robin Johnson as Dr. Johnson’s’ wife. It also names as a defendant “a single woman who has held herself out on occasion as being married to Donald Russell Johnson and has used the assumed fictitious marital name,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims that the “single woman” signed the “fictitious name” on the lease documents. None of the legal documents, however, offer any evidence that she knew she wasn’t legally married.

Johnson’s real wife, Robin Johnson, filed for divorce in Skagit County Superior Court earlier this year, though the matter appears far from being finalized. In a declaration in support of a motion for temporary orders, Robin Johnson writes that she married Dr. Johnson in 1983 and that they have two adult children together, including a son who still lives with her.

The declaration states that she doesn’t live with her husband. She filed for divorce in 2001, but didn’t follow through because she started living with him again. The judge dismissed the action in 2006, the document states.

Robin Johnson wrote that she considered herself married to Dr. Johnson and was “absolutely astonished” that he obtained a marriage license to marry the other woman in July of 2008, the document states. She claimed the woman and Dr. Johnson posted images of their “extravagant wedding” on the Island Medical Spa website.

“I have been scraping by while Dr. Johnson lives a very excessive lifestyle,” she wrote. “I have no idea how much Dr. Johnson earns. I do not know where he banks. He does have five businesses, a very expensive boat, and a very lavish lifestyle.”

The declaration states that Dr. Johnson did ask Robin Johnson for a divorce before his “second wedding,” but they disagreed about what was her share of the community property and the divorce never happened.

“He went ahead with his pretend marriage anyway,” she wrote in the court document.

In addition, Robin Johnson’s declaration states that she received a letter from the IRS that states she and her husband owe $180,000 in back taxes.

“I am sure that Dr. Johnson would like me to disappear and never file for divorce so he can live with his ‘pretend’ wife and ignore that he is still married to me,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, the IRS has made this dissolution necessary and inevitable.”

Dr. Johnson and his alleged second wife could not be reached for comment. An attorney representing Dr. Johnson said he and his client couldn’t discuss the case. Robin Johnson didn’t return a call for comment.


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