The state Medical Examining Board on Tuesday issued $5,000 fines to two physicians, including one who failed to further evaluate a lesion found by an MRI in the vertebra of a patient; and slightly loosened the restrictions placed on a Torrington doctor who successfully completed a five-year probationary period.
Gabriel Abella, a doctor practicing physical medicine and pain management, provided care to a patient from August to October 2017, state Department of Public Health (DPH) documents show. During that time, the patient received an MRI which showed a suspicious lesion within the vertebrae, the DPH said. But Abella did not acknowledge the radiologist’s report that indicated there was a lesion and didn’t order any further follow-up care to evaluate the lesion, DPH documents show.
In addition to the $5,000 fine, the board reprimanded Abella’s license and placed it on probation for one year. During the probationary period Abella is required to have a monitor review 20% of his patient files for the first three months and then quarterly, according to a consent decree. He is currently employed at Orthopedic Partners in North Franklin.
The board also issued $5,000 fine to a Florida physician who had practiced telemedicine in Connecticut until 2018.
Dr. Manoj Dhariwal came under scrutiny after a pharmacist on behalf of the Missouri-based Express Scripts reported that there were improprieties in Dhariwal’s prescribing habits, DPH documents said. Dhariwal had never practiced in-person medicine in Connecticut, but had prescribed medications on a telehealth platform through a third party to 37 patients in the state from January to November in 2018, documents show.
A review of five of the Connecticut patients revealed that Dhariwal had no direct or indirect contact with the patients, failed to document care, failed to gather adequate medical histories and failed to provide each patient with appropriate counseling or monitoring on the effects of the drugs he was prescribing, documents said. He is currently practicing family medicine in Florida, the DPH said.
The board also agreed to relax one of the restrictions placed on a Torrington physician accused in 2015 of alcohol abuse and of having a personal relational relationship with a staff member, which led to the theft of his prescription pad.
Dr. James O’Halloran III had his license to practice medicine permanently restricted in 2016 after the incidents, which occurred in his part-time private practice, documents said. O’Halloran was also working full-time as a physician within the state’s prisons at the time, DPH officials said.
The restriction required O’Halloran to only practice medicine in a setting where there were other physicians present. He was also required to avoid alcohol and drugs unless prescribed, attend individual therapy and support groups for substance abuse and provide urine samples during a five-year probationary period, DPH documents show.
O’Halloran successfully completed the five-year probation in February but must remain under the terms of the 2016 order, DPH officials said. He will now be allowed to practice in-person and telehealth medicine without another physician physically present as long as a doctor is available by video or in person to check in with him, the board agreed Tuesday.
The board also agreed to reprimand the Connecticut license of a California physician who was accused of dispensing prescriptions to 1,300 Maryland residents without a permit. Maryland officials fined Dr. Vishal Verma $50,000 and placed his license on probation for six months. Verma does not practice in-person medicine in Connecticut, but has maintained his license to practice telemedicine in the state, DPH officials said.