Med Board Fines Doc For Inappropriate Sexual Contact With Patient

The state Medical Examining Board fined a New Haven doctor $5,000 on Tuesday for having inappropriate sexual contact with a female patient in 2008.

The board found in its memorandum of decision that Dr. Si Hoi Lam had “acted illegally, incompetently and/or negligently in the practice of medicine” during a pre-operative exam of the patient on Dec. 19, 2008.

His license was placed on probation for six months, and he was ordered to take a course on medical ethics and boundaries. The board also imposed a permanent order that Lam must have a female employee present when examining any female patient.

During a pre-surgery visit with Lam before having a breast lumpectomy, the patient said that after a nurse left the room, he “caressed” her breasts, rather than doing the normal exam she was used to, state Department of Public Health records show.

When the patient told Lam she had tripped over a vacuum cleaner and had been hit in her chest, she said he then asked her to stand up, pulled her pants down to her knees and said he was going to check for bruises on her legs, records show.  She said Lam then massaged the outside of her underwear, then moved his hand under her underwear and massaged her clitoral area, records said. After completing some paperwork, the patient said Lam massaged her clitoral area again until she questioned why he needed to keep doing it, records said.

Lam denied that he touched her in an inappropriate way and said he conducted a normal breast exam and examined her legs for blood clots and the lymph nodes in her groin as required in the pre-surgery visit, records show. The patient said the groin examination made her feel “in shock,” records show.

After a hearing, the board concluded it had insufficient evidence that the breast exam was inappropriate, but it found that Lam “significantly deviated” from the standard of care when examining the patient’s lymph nodes, records state.

Records show the board found the patient’s testimony about the sexual contact to be “credible and reliable.” Lam had said the patient’s anxiety about the operation may have affected her judgment, but the board disagreed.

Other factors cited in the board’s decision were that Lam did not have a female assistant present during the exam, did not explain the type of touching he would be doing and did not document that he had examined her breasts or lymph nodes that day.

In other business Tuesday, the board accepted a consent order that prohibits a Bristol obstetrician from performing surgery except for procedures done under anesthesia in an office and bars her from delivering babies or caring for pregnant women beyond their 22nd week.

State records show that on Jan. 12, 2011, Dr. Victoria Biondi was performing a hysterectomy at Bristol Hospital when she could not find the tip of a scalpel. She did not have an X-ray done in the operating room to find the broken instrument but instead closed the surgical site and sent the patient to the recovery room, records show. Once there, Biondi ordered an X-ray.

The patient was informed of the missing scalpel and it was found and removed the next day, William Gerrish, DPH’s spokesman, said.

The hospital reported the incident to DPH. During the investigation, Biondi voluntarily surrendered her privileges to perform surgery at Bristol Hospital and John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, records show. She also agreed not to perform deliveries or care for pregnant women beyond their 22nd week at either hospital, records show.

The consent order states that Biondi did not admit any wrongdoing but agreed to the medical board’s penalty.

Board member Dr. Robert Green said after the vote on Biondi that the incident was “fairly egregious” and that he would have liked to see a stiffer penalty imposed.

The board also declined to reconsider its decision from last month to fine a Milford psychiatrist $15,000 for sending personal texts to a patient.

In September, the board had also reprimanded Dr. Ljudmil Kljusev for inviting the female patient in 2007 to meet him at a restaurant, for sending the texts and for calling her “Sweety,” DPH records show.

The board considered the behavior a violation of professional boundaries. Through a new lawyer, Kljusev asked the board to reconsider its conclusion that the texts were unrelated to treatment and were of a personal nature. Attorney Anthony Sasso of Fairfield wrote to the board that the text messages were “an effort to support a very fragile patient” and that the patient is the one who initiated the messages. DPH staff attorney Diane Wilan argued in writing against reopening the case, and the board agreed.

Assistant Attorney General Daniel Shapiro said Kljusev’s lawyer has asked for the request to be tabled Tuesday, but the board declined to do so.