Westport Plastic Surgeon Fined $25,000

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A Westport plastic surgeon was fined $25,000 by the Connecticut Medical Examining Board on Tuesday for operating a clinic that inspectors found had sloppy record-keeping and rusty and dirty equipment.

In addition, the board fined two other doctors $5,000 each for patient care lapses.

The plastic surgeon, Dr. Joel B. Singer, was also placed on probation for two years for the conditions at his Center for Ambulatory Surgery. Singer did not dispute the Department of Public Health findings and earlier this year he paid a $4,000 fine under a separate consent order with the board.

In May, DPH inspectors found that the center failed to keep records showing that nurses monitored patients for allergies or infections or kept track of sponges or needles used during operations.  The DPH report said that the center had dirty floors and rusty tweezers, an IV pole and scissors.  Singer declined to comment Tuesday.

The board also fined Dr. Tom Bell of Norwich $5,000 for removing a patient’s benign bowel lesion, while leaving a malignant lesion. The surgery took place in 2009.  In 2000, the board fined Bell $8,000 for a patient care lapse following an appendectomy, according to Matthew Antonetti, an attorney for DPH.  Bell’s lawyer, Don Leone, declined to comment on the consent order approved Tuesday but did say that Bell has retired as a surgeon.

Dr. David Kloth of Danbury was fined $5,000 for giving a patient an epidural shot on the wrong side.  Kloth’s attorney, Jason Prueher, declined comment.

In separate actions, the board approved consent orders that:

• Reprimanded Dr. Ellen Mascoli-Lanza of Waterbury for giving her husband 29 prescriptions for the painkiller Hydrocodone without maintaining medical records. Mascoli-Lanza declined to comment.

• Reprimanded Dr. Ross A. Glasmann of Burlington for giving 10 prescriptions of Vicodin, Percocet and a thyroid drug to a friend over 11 months without maintaining the patient’s medical records.

• Reprimanded Dr. John. A. Hallberg of Mystic for failing to disclose disciplinary action taken against him by Westerly Hospital in Rhode Island to regulators in that state.  In 2008, Rhode Island officials fined Hallberg $500 and placed him on probation for three years. The issue arose in Connecticut in March when Hallberg asked to have his Connecticut medical license reinstated.  A new state law gives the medical board the authority to discipline doctors based on actions by regulators in other states.

• Placed Dr. George Northrup of New Milford on probation for five years related to abuse of alcohol and painkillers. Northrup agreed to continue therapy and submit to random drug tests. He told the board that he became addicted to painkillers that were prescribed for back pain and spent six months in residential treatment for depression and addiction.

• Placed physician assistant Robert Lucas of Palm Desert, California on probation for four years related to disciplinary action taken against him by California regulators for a DUI conviction in 2009. His lawyer, Albert Danker, said outside the meeting that Lucas is now “clean and sober” and that “the board did the right thing.”  Lucas is licensed to practice as a physician assistant in Connecticut.

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