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Dr. Ryan Cole will soon be out of St. Luke's networks

The pathologist and CDH board member has been a vocal critic of COVID-19 vaccines.

BOISE, Idaho — Garden City pathologist Dr. Ryan Cole and his medical lab, Cole Diagnostics, will not participate in the St. Luke's Health Partners network after Dec. 22.

A spokesperson for St. Luke's Health System confirmed Wednesday that the contract between Cole and St. Luke's Health Partners will remain in effect until that date.

According to St. Luke's Health Partners website, this means Cole Diagnostics will no longer be in-network for nearly 200,000 Idahoans. 

The circumstances around Cole leaving the network of thousands of provider groups are not known; St. Luke's would not say whether he left on his own or if the group removed him.

In response to a request for more information, St. Luke's public relations manager Christine Myron told KTVB's Morgan Romero that Idaho peer review law prohibits St. Luke's from disclosing any further detail, other than the fact that Cole will no longer be part of the network. 

Myron referred to an Idaho Statute that states, "to encourage research, discipline and medical study by certain health care organizations for the purposes of reducing morbidity and mortality, enforcing and improving the standards of medical practice in the state of Idaho, certain records of such health care organizations shall be confidential and privileged as set forth in this chapter."

Cole has become a controversial figure during the COVID-19 pandemic for his outspoken criticism of COVID-19 vaccines and for touting the use of ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug the FDA has not approved for treatment of COVID-19, and is the subject of warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cole Diagnostics also conducts COVID-19 testing.

Ada County Commissioners voted 2-1 in August to appoint Cole to the Central District Board of Health after the commission decided, also in a split vote, to not retain Dr. Ted Epperly. Commissioners Rod Beck and Ryan Davidson supported Cole's appointment, while Commissioner Kendra Kenyon was "adamantly opposed." The appointment was ratified in September.

Many health care professionals have complained that Cole is spreading misinformation, and formal complaints have been filed with the Idaho Board of Medicine and Washington Medical Commission. As of Tuesday, the Idaho board has not taken any formal action, and Cole's license to practice as a physician remains in effect until June 30, 2022.

The upcoming parting of ways between Cole and St. Luke's Health Partners won't be the first time a healthcare entity in Idaho has distanced itself from Cole and his laboratory.

The Dept. of Veterans Affairs, which oversees the VA medical center in Boise, said Cole neither works for the VA nor consults with it. However, on his website, Cole says he has been a consulting pathologist with the Boise VA since 2003. VA spokesman Josh Callahan said the Boise VA stopped working with Dr. Cole and Cole Diagnostics in the spring of 2021.

Crush The Curve, an organization whose goal from the early days of the pandemic was to make sure as many Idahoans as possible were tested and vaccinated in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, stopped using Cole Diagnostics in October 2021.

Crush The Curve has conducted about 250,000 COVID tests in Idaho since the spring of 2020. A spokesperson for the organization said when Crush The Curve did use Cole Diagnostics, they used the lab for a very small percentage of the tests. The decision to stop using Cole was based on costs, turnaround times, and "the fact our mission to Crush The Curve was at odds with the information proactively campaigned to the public by leadership at Cole Diagnostics" all contributed to the decision to "utilize other labs in our network."

KTVB has on several occasions contacted Dr. Cole for comment, but he has not responded.

St. Luke's Health Partners contracts with healthcare providers and facilities on behalf of its insurance partners. The network is known as BrightPath in northern and eastern Idaho.

Ivermectin & COVID-19

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), so far a different version of ivermectin is approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to treat people with parasitic infections, but is not approved for the treatment of any viral infection, including COVID-19.

The NIH says there is insufficient evidence for or against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID. It is under evaluation and leading scientists say more large-scale, robust clinical trials are needed to provide evidence and guidance.

This fall the FDA came out with guidance discouraging the use of ivermectin as a treatment for the disease.

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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