L/fog
59°
L/fog
Hi 81° | Lo 60°

Lebanon Physician Suspended

Vt. Board: Doctor Did Not  Properly Document Treatments

Lebanon — A Lebanon physician who treats people with opiate addictions has been disciplined by Vermont’s Board of Medical Practice for unprofessional conduct and will not be allowed to have his license reinstated until he completes an ethics course.

Dr. Michael Schorsch, whose practice is next to City Hall on North Park Street, failed to properly document his treatment of nine patients receiving buprenorphine, a drug used to alleviate withdrawal symptoms for people trying to quit heroin and other opioids, according to the board’s May 1 decision.

In his defense, Schorsch alluded to his practice as being in “a war zone” and disagreed with medical experts who advocated strict adherence to certain state standards of medical care. Schorsch told the board’s investigator that he does “verbal contracts” with patients, did “not ‘believe in’ pill counts” and “is ‘not a fan of’ urine drug screens” as a part of buprenorphine treatment.

“I believe that this stuff should be available just like condoms, just like reading glasses,” Schorsch told the board.

Schorsch did not perform comprehensive physical exams of patients, administer urine drug tests or get written treatment agreements from them, violating state standards of care, according to the board. He also did not keep a federally-mandated inventory of the buprenorphine stored at his office, the board said.

The Lebanon physician, who has been licensed in Vermont since 1982, allowed his Vermont medical license to expire last November, according to state records. If he wants to reinstate it, he will have to complete an ethics program. After that, he would have a conditional license.

New Hampshire’s medical board also investigated Schorsch for the same issues, but allowed him to keep his license, which expires in 2015.

Attempts to reach Schorsch were unsuccessful. A phone message left at his office was not returned and no one answered his office door, which was locked yesterday afternoon.

The Vermont board began investigating Schorsch in September 2010 after receiving a complaint from one of his former patients, whom he had stopped treating four months prior. According to the board’s investigation, Schorsch ended treatment because he did not “feel (the patient) is ready to work to recovery.”

Schorsch, who represented himself during a January hearing on the charges, said that he used to followed state guidelines for treating patients with buprenorphine. However, eventually “it became ‘impossible’ for him to continue record keeping” in that manner when his practice tripled in size in recent years, going from 30 patients to 80 or 90.

He admitted that there were deficiencies in his “charting,” but disagreed with “any implication that it has in any way compromised or undermined his ability to care for these patients,” the board decision said.

Schorsch objected to the strict adherence to the practices advocated by the state’s expert, Dr. John Brooklyn, medical director of the University of Vermont Substance Abuse Treatment Center in Burlington. Schorsch believed Brooklyn’s approach would restrict access to buprenorphine for the people who need it.

“The idea that this medication is — needs to be prescribed by people, let alone with a special license, as though this was some rocket science, OK, we’re fundamentally different on this feeling,” Schorsch said.

Schorsch also said that he practices “much more in a war zone than Dr. Brooklyn does,” according to the board’s decision.

He objected to any requirement to take a “refresher course” and ended his testimony by saying, “So if it turns out that I am judged harshly for what I am unwilling to do rather than judged appreciatively for what I have been able to do, then that’s where we will have to leave things.”

The New Hampshire Board of Medicine launched its own investigation in 2011 after learning of the misconduct allegations from the Vermont Board of Medicine. The New Hampshire board found “technical violations,” but allowed Schorsch to keep his license because he “demonstrated a commitment to curing these defects,” according to the Dec. 15, 2011 decision.

Schorsch graduated from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in 1979. He later did his medical residency at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in 1982 and has been licensed to practice in New Hampshire since 1983, according to state records.

Chris Fleisher can be reached at 603-727-3229 or cfleisher@vnews.com.