Dentist sees license suspended after several patient problems - WFSB 3 Connecticut


Dentist sees license suspended after several patient problems

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A local dentist accused of making dangerous decisions and putting lives at risk has had his license suspended and was ordered to stay away from his patients.

State health officials said Dr. Rashmi Patel has been ordered to stay away from his patients after one died and another spent six days in the hospital.

The Department of Public Health and the state Dental Commission suspended Patel's license last month.

Both began investigating after receiving an anonymous tip in February following the death of a patient.

State investigators said Patel not only broke the law, but the public's health, safety and welfare was in "clear and immediate danger" before they became involved.

The website for Dr. Patel's Enfield Family Dental featured a handful of videos claiming people of all ages benefited from his state-of-the-art compassionate care.

"We have the technology to give you a smile you can be proud of at any age," Patel said in one of the videos.

The videos advertised different dental procedures done by Patel. However, nowhere on the site does it say Patel was not practicing.

The I-Team learned that the suspension in late April came after a series of allegations.

Patel was accused of improperly delegating conscious sedation to a dental assistant or hygienist and making them monitor a patient's response. He was also accused of failing to timely replace expired medications and failing to properly address and/or extract a different patient's throat pack, which was essentially a piece of gauze, in an unrelated incident. Lastly, investigators said he deviated from the standard care and treatment in spite of one mother's medical history.

Back in February, dispatchers received a 911 call.

"This is Jodi calling from Enfield Family Dental at 71 Hazard," the caller stated. "We're having a problem with one of the patients. She's under sedation and her pulse is really low."

Judy Gan, 64, and her husband Michael arrived at Patel's for 20 teeth extractions, implants and grafts that day.

The retired librarian, mother of two and grandmother had pre-existing medical issues that Patel was aware of, according to documents. Records show that she consented to the dental work while Patel's office received four medical clearances from other doctors.

However, toward the end of Gan's procedure, Patel's two dental assistants would later tell state health investigators about the horror that happened in the dentist's chair.

Allegations were that Patel was repeatedly made aware that Gan's oxygen levels were falling, yet reportedly wanted to keep working. Patel's assistants told investigators that "an assistant asked if we could call 911 and he said no."

The dentist soon noted one of the monitors was not working.

According to the documents, that's when "that same assistant told Dr. Patel to stop the procedure and help her. He then injected the PT with the reversal agent. I thought we were going to stop. I was (relieved) because the oxygen was so unstable I didn't think it was safe to keep working."

"The PT began to wake up and she asked Dr. Patel if we could please stop the procedure and call it a day," the assistant continued. "Dr. Patel wanted to get the implants in so I took over suctioning."

The documents said she "kept telling Dr. Patel the PT's oxygen was dropping. He told her not to tell him again unless it goes under 60. It kept dropping."

It wasn't until the situation grew worse, according to official statements and a second plea to call 911 that Patel agreed.

Gan, however, had already flatlined, according to the report.

Fifty-nine minutes after the ambulance arrived and rushed her to Bay State Medical Center in Massachusetts, Gan was pronounced dead.

The cause on her death certificate reads "pending further studies."

However, the analysis from the Connecticut Department of Public Health's investigative report was clear.

Dr. Gary Pearl, a Hamden dentist, was asked to review the case.

"It's my belief that (Gan) did not have to die to receive this dental treatment and it is because of… Patel's negligence that she died," Pearl wrote.

The health department alleged Patel failed to respond to changes in her condition, failed to interrupt the procedure to assess and evaluate and failed to administer any other emergency medications when the patient's condition continued to deteriorate.

Personal injury attorney Richard Kenny told the I-Team that Gan's family had no comment.

The probate court was notified of the potential for a wrongful death claim.

The I-Team also learned that the same health department investigation outlined additional allegations against Patel involving a second patient.

A 55-year-old man identified only as J.S. was being treated for an extraction on Dec. 19, 2013.

"We have a patient who was aspirated a throat pack and we can't get him breathing," a caller reported during an emergency call.

During conscious sedation, documents said the patient's throat pack was sucked into his lungs. An assistant notified Patel three times during the procedure before the man aspirated the gauze.

He too was rushed to the hospital and spent six days being treated for heart and lung damage.

Earlier this week, the I-Team went looking for answers at Patel's offices in Enfield and Torrington before being asked to leave.

Contact was also attempted at Patel's home in Suffield to try and get his side of the story. His Springfield-based attorney Michael Kogut instead provided a statement:

"Both episodes were unexpected and deeply concerning for Dr. Patel. His Enfield office is doing all it can to process the false allegations made by the Department of Public Health… The record is clear these allegations and what has been reported are not founded in accuracy or fact, even to the point this arbitrary action was taken against Dr. Patel before the cause of death was determined. The department of health has… acted outside its limitations. The investigation is flawed with errors and these false claims will be addressed before the Connecticut State Dental Commission. We have reason to believe the board acted arbitrarily and improperly by suspending his license without benefit of a full due process hearing."

This was not the first time Patel faced allegations of wrongdoing. The I-Team uncovered a lawsuit from 2009. Former employee Doreen Jasonis sued and won.

She told the court that Patel offered shoddy dental work as a wedding gift that caused multiple medical complications, including life-long suffering.

In 2011, a jury awarded almost half a million dollars in damages. During the appeal, the case was resolved confidentially between both parties.

Health officials admitted there were additional complaints against Patel, some of which were closed. Others were still pending.

Patel's offices in Enfield and Torrington remained open with patients being treated by other dentists on staff.

The next step was a hearing with the dental commission on June 18.

A decision does not necessarily have to be made right then and there, but the board will ultimately decide whether to revoke Patel's license, suspend it for an additional amount of time or clear him of these charges and reinstate the license.

The I-Team will look for an update after the hearing.

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