February 22, 2012

Medical Board Fines, Restricts Doc’s Surgical License

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An East Hartford doctor had his license to practice surgery permanently restricted by the state Medical Examining Board Tuesday. The board also fined him $3,000.

Dr. Sultan Quraishi, who practices medicine at the Silver Lane Medical Center, a walk-in clinic in East Hartford, has not maintained surgical privileges since Jan. 1, 2006.  Under the Department of Public Health consent order, he may no longer perform any surgery, including laser surgery, and may not perform biopsies. He may close a simple wound and provide care for lacerations.

The actions stem from several “deviations from standard surgical procedures” involving four patients whom he treated from December 2004 to July 2005, according to the consent order which Quraishi signed.

In one case in December 2004, Quraishi removed a synthetic mesh that had become infected but placed synthetic meshes back into the known infected wound, which also became infected, the consent order said. He then erroneously left part of the second infected mesh in place during a subsequent operation, the consent order says.

In July 2005, Quraishi “attempted an elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy, [gallbladder surgery] in an ambulatory setting,” and did not recognize and respond to a post-operative bleeding in this patient, the document says.

In May 2005, in an emergency room, the doctor removed all staples and retention sutures in a patient who had developed an infection and discharged the patient with oral antibiotics, according to documents.

And in March 2008, the consent order says, Quraishi erroneously noted on a patient’s chart that he had injected a pain killer and anti-inflammatory medication into a patient’s shoulder, and billed that patient, even though no injection was given.  He then failed to properly correct his patient’s medical record, the order says.

This was not Quraishi’s first disciplinary action by the state Department of Public Health. In 2002 he agreed to a consent order in which he was given a reprimand and a civil penalty of $7,500 after he was convicted of federal income tax evasion.

The medical board also voted to summarily suspend the licenses of two doctors with substance abuse problems, according to DPH documents.

Before voting on Dr. Carolyn McDonald’s license suspension, board members discussed the merits of acting immediately by issuing a summary suspension or waiting for the matter to get on the calendar for a hearing. McDonald, a radiologist who has held a Connecticut license since 1985 and is practicing medicine at a Veterans Administration hospital in Florida, has a history of alcohol abuse, according to the statement of charges presented by the DPH. Under federal law, she may practice in the VA system so long as she has an unencumbered license in any state, according to documents.

In recommending that her medical license be suspended immediately, pending a hearing within two weeks, DPH reported that the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice suspended her license indefinitely on Nov. 18, 2010 because she “is unable, or potentially unable, to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety to patients by reason of illness or use of drugs or chemicals.”

On Feb. 10, 2011, based on the Minnesota board’s action, the Medical Board of California suspended McDonald’s license to practice in California. She still has a medical license in New York and Pennsylvania, but because of confidentiality laws, it is unknown if any disciplinary cases are pending in those states, DPH attorney David Tilles told the board.

Furthermore, when she applied for renewal of her Connecticut license on Oct. 13, 2011, the statement of charges says, “she misrepresented or concealed a material fact when she falsely indicated ‘no’ ” to the question on the application asking her whether, within the past year, she had had any disciplinary action taken against her by another state.

By recommending the summary suspension, Connecticut’s DPH stated that she represents a clear and immediate danger to public health and safety.

After one board member asked whether there was an urgency to suspend her license, Tilles said, “yes.”

If she continues to practice at the VA hospital in Florida based on her Connecticut license, “it’s going to come back to bite us,” said board member and lawyer Dr. Henry Jacobs. “Two states suspended her license. She doesn’t bother to appear.” If this board doesn’t act, “we’ve permitted the patients of Florida to be subject to incompetence because we were paralyzed by indecision.”

Board chairperson Anne Doremus noted that “she’s practicing in Florida with a Connecticut license.” The Medical Board will conduct a hearing on her suspension within two weeks.

The board also summarily suspended the medical license of Carl Schiano of Naugatuck, who has been licensed to practice medicine and surgery in the state since 1998. He did not attend the meeting, nor did he have legal representation. The board had previously suspended Schiano’s license and put him on probation on allegations of abuse of controlled substances, improper prescribing of controlled substances and negligent or incompetent care of patients.

A summary suspension document says that in September 2011 he closed his medical practice without giving patients any warning, without arranging for continuing care for his patients and without giving them their medical records or making their records available to them. From about October 2011 to January 2012, Schiano lived in the home of two of his patients, where he kept many patients’ medical records unsecured in the basement of the home, according to documents.

While living there, Schiano took items from their home and pawned some of them, the statement says. In December 2011, he wrote a prescription for Lexapro for one of the patients and backdated it to July 2011, specifically telling his patient that he had backdated it to a date when he still had been covered by malpractice insurance.

In other business, the board voted to reprimand a retired doctor for writing prescriptions for his wife and himself after his Connecticut controlled substance certificate of registration had expired. Dr. Willoughby Lathem of Stamford had an active federal Drug Enforcement Administration license during that time. The consent order that he signed calls for him to cease and desist prescribing medicine for himself, his family or friends.

Lathem, who is 88, practiced medicine for 35 years and has no prior history with the DPH. He did not realize that his Connecticut license to write prescriptions had expired, his attorney, Dean Montgomery, of Greenwich, told the board. His client conceded that writing a prescription without the Connecticut license was illegal. (It expired in 1998, according to the consent order.) But Montgomery said letting the Connecticut controlled substance certificate of registration lapse was analogous to a driver’s license expiring.

His client, who had no reported malpractice history, admitted his mistake, but objected to being reprimanded, Montgomery said. But the medical board members said that the meeting was not the time to dispute the discipline since Lathem had signed the consent agreement.

Outside of the hearing, Lathem lamented that he was not permitted to explain the circumstances, saying that his wife’s pain medication for severe back pain ran out over a weekend and she was unable to reach her doctor for a refill.
“I have had an unblemished, fine career,” he said. “This is an injustice.”

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