Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that a Committee of the State Board of Medical Examiners (“the Committee”) has temporarily suspended the license of a Middlesex surgeon amid allegations he jeopardized his patients’ health and safety by reusing single-use catheters on multiple patients during anorectal diagnostic testing.
According to authorities, Dr. Sanjiv K. Patankar, an East Brunswick practitioner, allegedly washed and reused the small, flexible catheters inserted into patients’ rectums during medical procedures, according to a Verified Complaint filed by the State.
The catheters are meant to be thrown away after a single use, but Patankar used them on at least five patients before discarding them because supplies for replacement catheters were on backorder, the State alleges.
After taking testimony and reviewing evidence during a hearing last week, the Committee unanimously found that Patankar demonstrated a fundamental lack of judgment and placed patients in clear and imminent danger by reusing the catheters.
“It is appalling that a doctor would engage in such an unsanitary and dangerous practice,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Through his alleged conduct, Dr. Patankar has demonstrated a reckless disregard for public safety that placed countless patients at risk of communicable diseases.”
“Dr. Patankar’s alleged conduct not only violates professional standards, it reveals an alarming lack of judgment that calls into question his fitness to practice,” said Sharon Joyce, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “By temporarily suspending his license, the Board fulfilled its duty to protect the public from this practitioner while these very disturbing allegations are pending.”
Officials said Patankar used the catheters on patients undergoing “anorectal manometry” testing in his office. An anorectal manometry is performed to evaluate patients with constipation, fecal incontinence, or other possible disorders that may involve the anorectal sphincter.
During the test, one end of the catheter, with a small balloon on the end, is inserted into the patient’s rectum, and the other end of the catheter is attached to a machine that measures pressure. During the test, the small balloon may be inflated in the rectum to assess the normal reflex pathways.
During the hearing on Tuesday, the state argued that even though the packaging on the catheters specifically states “do not reuse,” Patankar reused them on multiple patients because the anorectal manometry testing equipment in his office is outdated and replacement catheters from the manufacturer are on backorder.
Officials said Patankar allegedly instructed his medical assistants to wash the used catheters in soap and water, soak them in bleach solution for 30 minutes, and then rinse and let air dry. Once the catheters were dry, they were put back in their original packaging so they could be reused. Even when a catheter began breaking down from over-bleaching, Patankar ordered his medical assistant to continue using it, the State alleges.
During the hearing on Dec. 19th, the Committee heard conflicting testimony from Patankar’s medical assistants about the reuse of catheters. However, the Committee resolved the discrepancies in favor of the State; finding that documentary evidence showed that although 82 anorectal procedures were performed in Patankar’s office between January 1 and November 30, 2017, there were only 5 catheters ordered during that period of time.
Under the Committee’s order, Patankar’s license will remain temporarily suspended pending a full hearing in the Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”) on the allegations against him, and until the Board takes final action based on the OAL’s findings. Patankar was given a 30-day wind-down period during which he can only practice in a hospital setting, and during which he must provide documentation to the Board that he is transferring his care to other physicians.
The Committee further ordered that Patankar must provide the Board with a list of patients who underwent anal manometry testing from January 1, 2011 to the present.
The Committee gave Patankar the opportunity for reconsideration of its decision at the January 10, 2018 Board meeting. However, this opportunity can only be invoked if he has documentary evidence supporting that he in fact ordered catheters that would account for all of the 82 procedures that he performed from January 1, 2017 to November 30, 2017.
Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed health care professional in an inappropriate manner can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.