Thursday, March 13, 2003

2 doctors now face action in Ohio, too



By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ohio medical authorities issued formal disciplinary charges Wednesday against two Greater Cincinnati doctors following the emergency suspension of their licenses to practice medicine in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure has accused Dr. Ghassan Haj-Hamed, 37, of Clifton and Dr. Juan C. Mejia, 39, of Springfield Township of inappropriately prescribing controlled substances.

The Kentucky board acted after receiving a complaint from an undercover narcotics agent with the Northern Kentucky Drug Strike Force.

During the 30-day period the doctors have to present a case to the Ohio Medical Board, officials will not stop Haj-Hamed from practicing medicine at the Urgent Care center he co-owns in Oakley or the Riverside Medical Care Clinic he operates in Fairfield.

Mejia will also be able to continue to practice; he has privileges at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati.

Neither Mejia nor Haj-Hamed could be reached for comment.

Good Samaritan Hospital spokesman Joe Kelley said Wednesday evening that he didn't have enough information on the charges to comment.

"We consider it a very serious matter and will investigate," he said.

Medical Board Executive Director Thomas A. Dilling said that Ohio, unlike Kentucky, requires "clear and convincing evidence" that a doctor's continued practice poses a threat of "immediate and serious harm to the public" before a license can be suspended prior to a hearing. That must be supported by "reliable, probative and substantial evidence," he said.

Each physician has 30 days to request a hearing on the Ohio charges before the board can take action.

Ohio Medical Board hearings are open to the public and are held in front of an attorney hearing examiner, who reviews evidence presented by both doctor and the state before issuing a report and recommendation to members of the medical board.

If the charges are proven, the medical board could impose sanctions ranging from reprimand to permanent license revocation.

The Ohio board can take disciplinary actions against a physician on at least 37 separate grounds, including actions taken in other states. The Ohio board lists the same 11-page complaint against both doctors that Kentucky used as a basis for its emergency suspension.

The complaint, compiled by investigators for the Kentucky board, lists allegations of over-prescribing pain medication at three medical offices in Northern Kentucky where Haj-Hamed and Mejia practiced. It does not contain any allegations of wrongdoing in Ohio.

E-mail jhannah@enquirer.com




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