Med Board Disciplines Four Doctors, Fines Stonington Doc $8,000

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The state Medical Examining Board disciplined four doctors on Tuesday, including fining a Stonington doctor $8,000 for failing to provide adequate follow-up care for a patient who later died of cancer.

Dr. David Burchenal of Stonington was also reprimanded and placed on three years of probation under a consent order approved by the board. During the probation, Burchenal must hire a physician to randomly review his patient records and must take a course in assessing urinary tract disorders.

In November, the board had rejected a $3,000 fine against Burchenal, with some members saying they wanted a stiffer penalty.

Burchenal failed to follow up on test results that showed his patient, George A. Ruffo, had abnormally high red blood cell counts in 2011 and 2012, state records show. In December 2014, Ruffo complained of blood in the urine and Burchenal did not order any treatment, records show.

George A. Ruffo

Photo Provided By Ruffo Family

George A. Ruffo

Within a month, Ruffo, 69, a lawyer from Stonington, died of cancer of the urinary system. His wife, Carol Ruffo, who filed a complaint with the state Department of Public Health about Burchenal’s care of her husband, said his death came just two weeks after he was diagnosed with stage four cancer.

Burchenal did not contest the allegations. His lawyer, Eugene Cooney of Hartford, told the board in November that it was an oversight with the patient’s lab reports and the doctor has since thoroughly reviewed his practice to make sure nothing like it would happen again.

In a written statement handed out by her son David Rohde after the decision, Carol Ruffo said she was pleased with the board’s action.

“Our intent has been, and always will be, to protect other patients whose tests are not being properly read and discussed with them,’’ she wrote. “Clearly, a life could have been saved, or at least extended, had action been taken in 2011 when the first alarming test reports appeared in a routine physical.”

The board also fined Dr. Josef Burton, a pediatrician from New Milford, $5,000 after a hearing panel found that he had failed to adequately treat two patients with addiction and mental health diagnoses.

Burton was also placed on probation for two years and permanently banned from prescribing some controlled substances. He must also complete courses on recordkeeping and addiction and mental health in children and adolescents.

Burton gave one patient with a history of drug addiction prescriptions for methadone and Suboxone, which is used to treat addiction, without consulting with addiction experts, records show.

The second patient was treated for heroin overdoses in hospital emergency rooms three times in 2010 and 2011. The hearing panel found that Burton failed to maintain adequate treatment records for the patient and inappropriately prescribed controlled substances to the patient, records show.

An expert found that Burton never discussed a treatment plan with either patient and “continued to prescribe these dangerous controlled substances to these highly addicted patients,” records show.

Burton told the board Tuesday that the punishment was too stringent and asked that his case not be reported to a national physician database.

While conceding that he made mistakes, Burton said, “My name goes in there forever. That’s my legacy.”

Kathryn Emmett, the board chairperson, told Burton that any time it takes disciplinary action against a doctor, it is reported to the national database.

On Tuesday, the board also reprimanded Dr. Jonathan Parkhurst, a Middlebury internist, and placed him on probation for one year for failing to meet the standard of care in treating seven patients between 2012 and 2015, records show.

A consent order he agreed to states that Parkhurst prescribed controlled substances to the patients without adequately monitoring them, following through with drug tests or documenting the prescriptions. Parkhurst must now take a course in prescribing controlled substances.

Board members Jean Rexford, Michele Jacklin and Dr. C. Steven Wolf voted against the reprimand, with Wolf saying it was too lenient.

The board also reprimanded Dr. Jennifer Matthesen, a cosmetic surgeon from Weston, and fined her $1,000 for failing to maintain adequate medical records in 2014 and 2015 when she prescribed controlled substances for herself, her family members and a nurse working at a Mount Kisco, New York facility.

Matthesen also improperly prescribed controlled substances in New York in 2014 and 2015 while using her Connecticut Drug Enforcement Agency number, the consent order she agreed to said.

Jacklin voted against the fine, saying it was too low.

“I’m not sure it accomplishes anything to fine a doctor $1,000,’’ Jacklin said.


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