More charges could be filed against Poulsbo doctor
By MEGAN STEPHENSON
January 4, 2013 · Updated 4:52 PM
POULSBO — Dr. Narinder Duggal has until Feb. 1 to respond to the Washington State Medical Commission’s Statement of Charges accusing him of unprofessional conduct, sexual misconduct and abuse.
Duggal’s medical license remains active.
Larry Berg, an attorney with the medical commission, said Duggal had 20 days to respond to the statement, which was filed Nov. 28. Duggal’s attorney requested an extension “due to the voluminous medical records” of the patients that filed complaints against him, Berg said. Once Duggal responds to the charges, either a settlement conference or a hearing will be scheduled, he said.
Duggal operates Liberty Bay Internal Medicine at 20696 Bond Road, Poulsbo.
The state Medical Quality Assurance Commission filed a Statement of Charges Nov. 28, detailing six former patients’ complaints against Duggal. The six separate cases allege Duggal failed to properly examine patients, overprescribed medication, made sexual advances toward one patient and engaged in a sexual relationship with another.
In addition, one former patient filed a medical malpractice suit in Kitsap County Superior Court Dec. 17 against Duggal and his former pharmacist, Nicholas Wyatt.
A Statement of Charges means the Washington State Department of Health believes there is enough evidence to warrant a hearing. When a complaint regarding a healthcare provider is received, it is reviewed to decide if the incident is a violation of the law, if the public needs protection, and if the Health Department has legal authority to take action, according to the department’s website. If the department determines the allegation might be a violation, and there is legal authority to take action, then it conducts an investigation.
Disciplinary actions that may be taken against a healthcare provider include fines, counseling, practice limitations, and license suspension or revocation.
There are several other pending complaints against Duggal, including four open investigations, State Medical Investigator Jim Smith said.
“Like every other endeavor, we wanted our case to be as strong as possible, but at some point you have to draw the line,” Berg said.
After the second sexual misconduct complaint was made, the medical commission made the decision to file the charges, but Berg said the statement can be amended to add the other accusations.
“It’s highly likely the statement will be amended at least once, knowing what I know about the various matters being currently investigated,” Berg said.
Neither Duggal nor his attorney, Carol Sue Janes, returned calls for comment by Thursday.
In the statement, Duggal is accused of failing to effectively research his patients’ medical histories and/or document their history with him. For example, a patient seeking treatment for detoxification using Subutex therapy — an opiate withdrawal program — did not receive proper treatment after Duggal failed to obtain medical records from the previous two-and-a-half years. Duggal did not try to contact the patient's previous physicians, the document states.
The most recent alleged misconduct occurred in September 2011, when Duggal allegedly had sexual intercourse with a patient and had asked her for sexually explicit photographs.
The civil suit against Duggal and Wyatt, filed by former patient Lynsee Swisher, alleges Duggal prescribed her strong pain medication though she was “not seeking treatment for chronic pain.”
Swisher also alleges that Wyatt acted as a physician on several occasions, and consulted with her several times “about her concerns of being dependent or addicted to the prescribed medication. No records of these consultations were made.”
Wyatt said Thursday he did not want to comment for the record.
Swisher also alleges Duggal sent text messages to her that “progressively became more sexually graphic … When Swisher did not [reciprocate], Duggal reminded her that he was signing her prescriptions.” Duggal also allegedly groped and “forced his tongue down her throat” during an office appointment in 2010.
Duggal is the only physician in Kitsap County that is federally licensed to prescribe Suboxone, a treatment of opioid dependence which says should be taken “as part of a complete treatment plan to include counseling and psychosocial support,” according to its website.
According to a Herald article in April 2010, Duggal began the state’s first comprehensive outpatient drug rehabilitation program for opiate derivatives.
Duggal is quoted as saying, “Every doctor should fully recognize that if they prescribe pain medicine there will always be a potential for addiction … Our goal is to empower each person by using both their innate healing potential as well as using their brains to heal the body and vice versa and then to use the medication as appropriate to help them move in a direction that they can become functional and back to society.”
Contact North Kitsap Herald Megan Stephenson at email@example.com or 360-779-4464.