The state Medical Examining Board imposed fines ranging from $2,000 to $7,000 on three doctors Tuesday, including $5,000 against a Greenwich neurosurgeon who operated on the wrong disc on a patient’s spine in 2011.
Dr. Mark Camel, who is affiliated with Greenwich Hospital, discovered his error during spinal surgery on Oct. 27, 2011 and then operated on the correct disc. State investigators found that Camel admitted that he had written down the wrong spinal location during a pre-operative visit and neither he nor the patient noticed the error when signing consent forms, records indicated.
When Camel was reviewing an MRI and preparing to close the patient, he noticed his mistake. Camel immediately reported his error and has put in place protocols to be sure such an error never happens again, records show.
It was the second time in two months that the board had taken up “wrong site” incidents at Greenwich Hospital. In May, it declined to discipline Dr. Paul Sygall for administering a nerve block to the wrong arm of a patient in 2010 who was about to undergo wrist arthroscopy.
Board members on Tuesday asked staff members from the state Department of Public Health to provide them with information on what Greenwich Hospital is doing to prevent such incidents. State records in the Camel case said the hospital audited his procedures and was satisfied that he had taken steps to make sure such a mistake would not happen again.
The board approved a consent order that reprimanded and fined Dr. Gregory Azia, a New London vascular surgeon, $7,000 for lapses in care. In 2009, the board had fined him $2,000 for not having adequate malpractice insurance.
After receiving a complaint in March 2012 about unsanitary conditions at Azia’s office, state investigators found that Azia did not ensure that medications were properly labeled and stored and that he used equipment and instruments that were not properly sterilized or discarded, state records show.
Records show Azia also improperly delegated to medical assistants the preparation of intravenous solutions for treating varicose veins.
By this spring, a consultant concluded that that Azia’s office was clean and that he had taken steps to control infections. Azia’s lawyer, Hilary Fisher Nelson, told the board Tuesday that Azia has changed his practices and is willing to hold sessions to educate other doctors on infection control.
In other business, the board also reprimanded and fined Dr. Richard Ochrym of Salisbury $2,000 for mishandling drugs. Ochrym’s entire practice consists of house calls and visits to boarding schools, which he advertises through the web site doctordoeshousecalls.com.
In 2012, the state Department of Consumer Protection found that Ochrym failed to properly store, secure and document his supply of controlled substances, records show. Twice, he took drugs prescribed by another practitioner out of a home when patients or relatives asked him to, DPH staff attorney David Tilles told the board.
Records also show that Ochrym once dispensed a diet pill to his wife without proper documentation.
Tilles said there was no evidence that Ochrym had provided improper care to patients.
When reached after the meeting, Ochrym said he was not aware he could not take pills from patients and that he only prescribed the drug to his wife once.
Though he’s been a doctor for 30 years, he said he started the house call practice out of his home six years ago to provide affordable, convenient care to patients. He said he signed the consent order to put the issue behind him.
“I am an honest guy. I do everything by the book,’’ he said. “I just feel I got railroaded” by DPH.
Under the consent order, his license will be on probation until he can show he has completed coursework in the next six months on the proper securing, transporting and documentation of drugs.
On Tuesday, the board declined to hold a hearing on whether to reinstate the medical license of Dr. Andrew Solomon of Fort Myers, Fla.
In May 2002, Connecticut had revoked Solomon’s license based on 10 cases of “negligent care and misconduct” in New York, where his license had also been revoked. In his letter seeking a new hearing in Connecticut, Solomon wrote that he had been falsely accused and blamed New York officials for holding an “inquisition” against him, rather than an investigation.
A DPH lawyer advised the Connecticut board to reject Solomon’s request for a hearing.
Tuesday was the first medical examining board meeting chaired by Kathryn Emmett, a prominent Stamford lawyer and former Superior Court judge. A Democrat who served on the transition team of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Emmett was recently appointed by Malloy to replace the longtime chairperson, Anne C. Doremus, a Manchester Republican. Doremus remains on the board as a member.