Indian American doctor’s license suspended for reusing anal catheters on multiple patients

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Dr. Sanjiv Patankar (Courtesy: surgicalspecialistsatprinceton.com)

NEW YORK – The medical license of an Indian American physician, Dr. Sanjiv Patankar, a colon and rectal surgeon based in East Brunswick, New Jersey, has been temporarily suspended for allegedly reusing disposable anal catheters on multiple patients at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

According to an NJ.com report, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs said in a statement that Patankar “allegedly washed and reused the small, flexible catheters that are inserted into patients’ rectums during medical procedures.”

“It is appalling that a doctor would engage in such an unsanitary and dangerous practice. Through his alleged conduct, Dr. Patankar has demonstrated a reckless disregard for public safety that placed countless patients at risk of communicable diseases,” Porrino said in the statement.

During a hearing held on Dec. 19, 2017, the state documented evidence which allegedly showed that 82 anal evaluation tests were performed in Patankar’s office between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30 last year and only five catheters were ordered within those 11 months.

As stated in a Daily Mail UK report, anal catheters, which can be sold for as little as $0.25 each on Alibaba, are basically plastic tubes which are inserted into the anus to collect fecal matter or to put fluid into the anal cavity and intestines as well as flush a patient’s insides with saline solution or collect stool samples to test for signs of abnormalities, all of which Patankar was doing.

Anorectal manometries tests are performed by inserting the small end of the tube into the patient’s rectum, which would inflate a small balloon to open up the rectal cavity and the other end of the tube is attached to a machine to gauge pressure, these tests are used to evaluate patients for constipation, fecal incontinence, lack of bowel control and other possible disorders.

A press release from the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General (OAG) stated that Patanker was also using an outdated version of this machine.

The state also argued during the Dec. 19 hearing that the catheter tubes were on back order.

According to a testimony from some of his medical assistants Patankar had them wash the catheters tubes in soap and water first, then soak them in bleach for 30 minutes and were reportedly rinsed again and left out to air dry before they were replaced in their original plastic packages, which prosecutors argued, are clearly marked ‘do not reuse.’

A Forbes article explains the dangers of reusing a catheter tube: “it can be a bit like washing and then reusing used toilet paper. Neither toilet paper nor single-use catheters are designed to be washed, making them difficult to adequately clean and disinfect. Microbes such as bacteria and viruses can hide out in the various cracks, crevices, and pores in the catheter.”

The Forbes article further states that, “such unacceptable re-use can help transmit infectious diseases from one patient to another” and washing the device “can significantly damage any device, equipment, or material that is not designed to be washed” which “can not only impair the functioning of the catheter but also create more cracks, tears, and other places for microbes to hide.”

Patankar’s license will remain temporarily suspended as a full hearing in the state Office of Administrative Law is still pending and nothing can be done until the Board of Medical Examiners takes final action based on further findings.

According to the Forbes article, steps which can be taken to avoid such malpractice include: choosing your doctors, clinics, and hospitals carefully; scanning the surroundings such as the office space, examining room, procedure rooms and the overall environment for cleanliness; familiarizing yourself with every procedure you are to receive; inquiring about the procedures which are used to clean and check equipment, watching the equipment being taken out of its packaging; being aware of any signs of damage, wear and tear, or hygiene issues; asking to see and read the packaging to check if the device is labeled as single-use and asking how the devices and equipment are handled.

The State of New Jersey says that patients who suspect they were treated improperly by a licensed health care professional can submit a complaint online with the state Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting NJConsumerAffairs.gov or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll-free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.

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