More lawsuits filed against Clark surgeon

Published 10:08 am Friday, January 4, 2019

A Winchester orthopedic surgeon, whose license was suspended after performing operations while under the influence of drugs in 2018, is now facing lawsuits from another seven former patients.

Dr. Michael R. Heilig, a partner at Kentucky Orthopedic Associates, was previously named in two lawsuits filed by former patients.

The new suits were filed between Dec. 19 and Dec. 26 in the Clark Circuit Clerk’s office.

According to the suits and the Kentucky Medical Licensure Board, officials at Clark Regional Medical Center determined Heilig appeared to be impaired after performing two surgeries and preparing for a third May 10, 2018.

A report from the Board of Medical Licensure states that an operation nurse who worked with Heilig on May 10 provided a written statement of his behavior.

The nurse said Heilig “almost fell like he lost his balance” and “was talking a little weird” on the first surgery. On the second surgery, the nurse said Heilig continued “losing his balance” and was “not acting like himself.”

As Heilig was preparing for the third surgery, the nurse alleged he “was walking backward like stumbling with his eyes closed and mumbling” and that when he attempted to sit on a stool he nearly missed the stool. The nurse also said Heilig acted confused about proper protocol for draping, which prompted the team to abort the surgery and contact administrators.

On May 14, CRMC administrator Robert Parker suspended Heilig’s privileges at the hospital and his license was put “on leave” citing concerns of him being impaired in the operating room.

Heilig submitted to a drug screen May 10 and was sent home. The screen found oxycodone, alprazolam and other medication in Heilig’s system.

KOA officials also found evidence Heilig was self-prescribing Ambien as well as using the DEA numbers of other doctors at the practice to prescribe medications to himself.

In the new lawsuits, the patients all claim Heilig “was not mentally and/or physically competent to perform the duties of an orthopedic surgeon from at least May of 2016 to May of 2018…” and should not have performed the surgeries during that time. They also say Heilig did not disclose his use of controlled substances.

One patient and plaintiff, Doug White, told The Sun previously Heilig replaced one of his hips in 2017. A second opinion from a separate surgeon determined Heilig installed the hip incorrectly, which had damaged his bones, he said.

The seven new lawsuits did not list the plaintiffs’ injuries or what surgeries were performed.

The suits also named Kentucky Orthopedic Associates, Clark Regional Medical Center, LifePoint Holdings and LifePoint of Kentucky as defendants for allegedly not dismissing Heilig from the practice or his privileges at CRMC when they knew or should have known of his impairment issues.

In an answer to one of the new suits, Heilig PLLC doing business as Kentucky Orthopedic Associates, denied all claims. No answers had been filed by Heilig himself, CRMC or LifePoint as of Thursday.

Heilig’s license was suspended Aug. 3, 2018, by the Board, but allowed him to request its  reinstatement after 90 days of documented sobriety.

The license was reinstated Nov. 15, 2018, but with conditions including that he abstain from all “mood-altering substances” including alcohol, unless prescribed for a legitimate medical purpose. He also agreed to be subject to random, unannounced breathalyzer and drug testing. The order did not set an end date for the restrictions on Heilig’s license.

The patients are all seeking unspecified financial damages for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and past and future pain and suffering.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@bluegrassnewsmedia.com or call 859-759-0051.

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