Medical Board accuses Chowchilla doctor of incompetence, gross negligence

rparsons@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 10, 2014 

— A Chowchilla doctor faces potential disciplinary actions by the state Medical Board, which accuses him of failing to supervise a physician assistant who prescribed “dangerous drugs” to himself and to patients without documented medical need, state authorities said Monday.

The California Medical Board on Jan. 29 formally accused Dr. Youssef B. Hadweh of “gross negligence” and “incompetence” for failing to supervise Richard “Ricardo” Regalado, a former physician assistant at Hadweh’s family practice at 129 N. Fifth St. in Chowchilla.

According to the accusation, Hadweh, 53, also ordered another physician assistant to refill a painkiller prescription for Hadweh’s mother on March 14, 2013, which “… is equivalent to ordering a controlled substance for oneself or one’s family member.”

Both men also failed to properly document numerous patient records between at least 2004 and 2012, the accusation says.

No hearing dates have been scheduled, according to Cassandra Hockensen, a Medical Board spokeswoman.

During interviews Monday with the Sun-Star, both men denied any misconduct. “This is just a documentation problem, not a medical problem” Hadweh said. “Things were not documented the way they were supposed to be, but there was no wrongdoing.”

Neither man has any prior record of disciplinary actions in California.

Hadweh declined to comment on whether he ordered an employee to authorize painkillers for his mother. He also declined to “go into the details” of why medical treatments were not properly documented.

“Of course we plan to fight these accusations because they aren’t true,” Hadweh said. “I’m a little surprised that we’re treated as guilty until proven otherwise.”

According to the accusation, Regalado, 66, wrote numerous prescriptions, including for powerful painkillers, to himself and other patients without documented medical justification.

Regalado also failed to properly evaluate medical conditions on numerous occasions, the accusation says, and did not properly document many patient records over the eight years in question.

As his supervisor, Hadweh was directly responsible for Regalado’s medical decisions, according to the accusation.

Hadweh told investigators he typically comes into the office only about “one day a week” and said the office has basically been operated by physician assistants since 2004, the accusation says.

In 2010, the accusation says, Regalado began prescribing himself strong painkillers, including Norco, Vicodin and Lortab. The accusation cites 16 incidents between June 2010 and October 2012 in which Regalado ordered his own painkillers, which the Medical Board prohibits.

Regalado authorized painkillers for several patients without documented justification, the accusation says. Examples cited in legal documents include a Vicodin prescription for a woman in March 2011 who complained of “allergies,” a Norco prescription for another woman in December 2010 who complained of “a cough,” and Lortab for a woman in January 2011 who was seen for “bronchitis.”

Regalado denied any wrongdoing on Monday.

“None of that is true,” Regalado said.

As of Monday, the state Physician Assistant Board had not filed any formal accusations against Regalado. The board didn’t return a phone call Monday seeking comment.

Regalado plans to dispute any actions taken. “It’s only accusations. These are not facts,” he said. “We’ll just have to see what pans out now. I always just did the best I could, and I don’t regret a thing.”

He said he doesn’t understand why the Medical Board made the allegations. “Maybe they got it from a disgruntled staff member or disgruntled patient, I don’t know,” Regalado said. “It could be a disgruntled pharmacist, who knows?”

Hadweh said he stands by his own record and his former employee.

“Ricardo was an excellent (physician assistant),” Hadweh said, “and we provided excellent care to Chowchilla and have since 1996.”

Staff writer Rob Parsons can be reached at rparsons@mercedsunstar.com or (209) 385-2482.

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