Awaiting ruling from New Mexico Medical Board
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Several expert witnesses testified during day two in the suspension hearing of Las Cruces neurologist Dr. Pawankumar Jain before the New Mexico Medical Board Tuesday.
The hearing began with testimony from Chief Medical Investigator Debbie Dieterich who testified about records the board subpoenaed from Dr. Jain's office as well as the off-site location he was performing epidural injections.
"We noticed they (records) were incomplete and they seemed to have little information on them," Dieterich said.
She testified they were not given records of every epidural procedure Jain conducted at Sun View Imaging, where he had privilege as a doctor and an agreement with the company.
Regional Director of Sun View Imaging Jeanene Moore testified the records were kept by Dr. Jain and a lot of the images were unavailable after an ownership change and new equipment at the facility.
Through her investigation Dieterich said they also found evidence of more than 300 prescription written on dates where airline records show Jain was traveling out of town.
Dieterich said the evidence showed Jain was not spending time with patients before prescribing medication.
"The records contain little information on physical exams or no exams on some patients," Jain said.
During cross-examination, Jain's attorney Jose Coronado argued the states evidence was misleading by being too narrow and only focusing on a pool of 21 patients.
The state heard from expert witness Dr. Robert Zuniga, a board certified anesthesiologist and pain management physician from Albuquerque.
Zuniga testified on the procedures used when performing an epidural injection.
He said Jain's technique was not correct.
"He's not even close to being in the place he needs to be in performing an epidural injection," Zuniga said.
Zuniga testified Jain's methods were awkward and not common practice but also not illegal.
He said the doctor was not properly injecting patients with medication and his doses were dangerously high.
Coronado argued Jain has had privileges at Memorial Medical Center for more than 13 years and has performed more than 10,000 epidural procedures in his more than 30 year career.
"You can do something 6,000 times and still do it wrong," Zuniga said.
The state went on to list numerous drug overdose cases where the patient had drugs in their system matching what Jain had prescribed.
Zuniga said in more cases the patients were poor candidates to be prescribed strong pain medication.
Administrative prosecutor Daniel Rubin asked if Jain was careful in prescribing to his patients.
"I don't think so," Zuniga said. "Patient died."
Coronado said Zuniga was asked to look at data and make a judgement solely on information presented after the fact.
Coronado argued it's not possible to determine who's good or bad candidate for medication without evaluating the patient face to face.
After the hearing was over the state and defense spoke with Local 4 News.
"When you have this number of deceased patients attributed to one doctor in three years, this is obviously a very serious issue," said Administrative Prosecutor Daniel Rubin. "I think the board will take it as a very serious issue."
Coronado said he built a good case in defense of his client and he hopes the board will allow Jain to get back to work.
"He's got a heart for people," Coronado said. "He would talk to them about things going on in their lives and they want to be back with him because he's a good doctor."
The board is scheduled to meet November 8th but a ruling isn't expected during that meeting.
The hearing report must still be completed and that could take at least a month.
The state said it is likely a special meeting will be scheduled to determine Dr. Jain's future.