FORT KENT, Maine — A Fort Kent physician temporarily stripped of his medical license last month was intoxicated while caring for patients, according to new information released by a state licensing board.
Dr. Robert K. Desai’s blood alcohol content was almost five times the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle while he was on duty at Northern Maine Medical Center on May 7, according to a consent agreement Desai signed with the Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine.
Desai, a radiologist, was referred to the hospital’s emergency department that afternoon after staff became concerned about his “cognition and unusual manner, lack of coordination and slurred speech,” the agreement states. An emergency room physician who examined and performed blood work on Desai diagnosed him with acute alcohol intoxication.
Desai denied using any intoxicating substances until the lab results came back, at which point he admitted only to drinking alcohol the previous evening, the agreement states.
Desai began work at NMMC on April 1 as a locum physician, or temporary contractor arranged through a staffing agency, according to the hospital. The hospital immediately removed him from caring for patients after the May 7 incident and alerted the medical licensing board, hospital officials said previously.
On May 8, the day after the hospital sent him home, Desai told licensing officials he had been seeing an alcohol counselor since the spring of 2012 but wasn’t enrolled in a state program for medical professionals with substance abuse issues, according to the agreement.
The board “summarily suspended” Desai’s license on May 14, saying he “presented an imminent danger to his patients” and prohibiting him from practicing medicine in Maine for 30 days. Such suspensions are uncommon and are reserved for cases in which patients are deemed at risk.
Under the consent agreement, Desai’s license will remain suspended until the board reaches a decision on his case. He was originally scheduled for a June 11 hearing before the board, but signed the consent agreement in lieu of that hearing.
In signing the agreement, Desai did not admit to or deny the board’s findings, but conceded that the board had sufficient evidence to conclude it had grounds for discipline for habitual substance abuse that could put patients at risk, unprofessional conduct and incompetence.
This appears to be the first time Desai has faced disciplinary action while practicing medicine. Physician licensing databases in both Maine and Massachusetts, where Desai has worked previously, show no prior disciplinary actions. Desai retired his Massachusetts license on May 21, according to licensing records.
Maine’s medical licensing database shows that Desai graduated from the SUNY Stony Brook School of Medicine in 1981.
His record lists a business address in Westborough, Mass. Desai did not return previous phone messages seeking comment.
A faculty profile for Desai on the website of University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he formerly worked, listed him as an associate professor of radiology, vice chairman of clinical operations, and interim director of body imaging and general radiology at the school.
Desai completed a residency in internal medicine at the Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts and in diagnostic radiology at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., after his graduation from SUNY Stony Brook, according to the profile. He went on to complete a fellowship through Harvard Medical School at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.