LEWISTON — The state’s medical licensing agency has restricted the practice of a Lewiston cardiologist who was reportedly “irritable, agitated, hostile and made inappropriate comments while treating a patient.”

The Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine last week placed Dr. Robert Weiss on probation for “at least 18 months” for unprofessional conduct. Weiss signed a consent agreement that outlined the terms of his probation, according to agency documents.

Weiss’ signature on the agreement doesn’t mean he admits to any misconduct alleged by the complainant, his attorney said Tuesday.

The board’s action stems from Weiss’ February 2014 encounter with the family of one of his patients who was hospitalized.

In her complaint to the board, that patient’s daughter wrote that when Weiss was asked by a family member what circumstances had led to the patient’s hospitalization in critical condition, Weiss replied: “You should just be lucky he is not brain dead like my patient next door who is half his age.”

His patient’s daughter characterized Weiss as “irritable, agitated and hostile” in response to questions asked about the medication Weiss had provided the patient and whether the woman’s father had an adverse reaction to it.

When asked questions by the family and the patient, Weiss reportedly said either: “This little question-and-answer session is done,” or “This is not a question-and-answer session. I’m done here.”

Weiss denied the actions described by his patient’s daughter in her complaint.

Weiss responded in an April 2014 letter that he had examined in his office the woman’s father who was experiencing “rapid atrial fibrillation.” Weiss offered to take the patient to the hospital to attempt to restore the patient’s heartbeat to normal.

The patient refused, Weiss wrote in his letter.

Weiss instead prescribed medicine aimed at slowing the patient’s heart rate. Apparently after his patient took that medication, he collapsed and was hospitalized.

When he learned what had happened, Weiss went to the hospital.

“He recalled telling the patient’s wife that the patient was fortunate that he was ‘coming around’ and that there was no sign that he was as bad off as they had initially worried about or as bad off as a patient in another room,” according to agency documents.

Weiss told the board that he recalled he used his “usual technique for answering questions, which was that he went around a room in a circle fielding questions from the family and that each time a question was answered, he went around again to see if there were additional questions.”

He wrote that his patient’s daughter was “somewhat verbally aggressive with him and that her first words to him were along the lines of him hurting or attempting to kill her father,” according to agency documents.

The patient’s daughter replied to Weiss’ response by suggesting that Weiss “was confusing the interactions with her family with that of another patient” and stated that she was “completely shocked” by his response in his letter to the agency.

She denied Weiss’ version of events.

Although the patient had no memory of events in the hospital, his wife reported that Weiss was “very unprofessional, extremely moody and acted like he did not have time for them.”

Weiss denied the characterizations of his patient’s wife. He apologized if his presentation was misinterpreted.

Notes from an independent reviewer for the board noted that the patient’s records for that February office visit didn’t reflect Weiss’ recommendation that his patient go to the hospital for treatment for rapid atrial fibrillation.

“I would have been reluctant to give the patient a prescription for (a beta blocker) and have him take that at home in an unmonitored situation given the fact that he was wheezing at the time of the examination and that his heart rate was as fast as it was with his known cardiac history,” according to agency documents.

Although a beta blocker “would have certainly been considered” given the patient’s refusal to go to the hospital for treatment of his rapid atrial fibrillation, “I would have wanted to make it very clear in the record that I explained to the patient the risks and benefits of administration of the drug,” the independent reviewer wrote.

A board investigator further reviewed the complaint, interviewing the patient’s wife’s sister, who had gone to the emergency room. She had asked Weiss: “Why did you send a symptomatic patient home?”

Weiss reportedly responded that he offered the patient a choice: “Go home and take a pill or go to the hospital and wait for me.”

A licensee is considered to have engaged in unprofessional behavior if the licensee “violates a standard of professional behavior, including engaging in disruptive behavior, that has been established for the practice of medicine. ‘Disruptive behavior’ means aberrant behavior that interferes with or is likely to interfere with the delivery of care.”

As part of the consent agreement, Weiss agreed to only practice medicine in connection with Maine Research Associates, and that his only outpatient involvement will be connected to his work with that group. He won’t see general cardiology patients otherwise, the agreement stipulates.

Weiss is director and CEO of Maine Research Associates in Auburn, which conducts research on medicines for cardiac care patients.

A so-called physician proctor will meet with Weiss and the manager of Maine Research Associates and perform a monthly review and evaluation of his practice and patient/staff interactions. That proctor will file quarterly reports with the state board.

Those reports should summarize the monthly reviews and evaluations and “identify any concerns or issues with professional interactions or conduct, including any allegations or reports of disruptive behavior.”

His medical license could be suspended or revoked if he fails to comply with the terms of the agreement, according to agency documents.

Weiss’ attorney, James Martemucci, said the matter was before the board for well over a year.

“Dr. Weiss was very confident and strong in his position that he did not do anything inappropriate, but he also acknowledged to the board several times that his words and actions could have been misinterpreted by the complainant,” Martemucci said.

“Understanding all of that, coupled with his desire to retire from full-time clinical practice and just do the research work and avoid a public hearing that could have been difficult for all concerned, including him, the complainant and both of their families, he decided to enter into a consent decree.”

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