CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The state medical board just released a new list of disciplinary cases handled last year involving doctors from Charlotte and across North Carolina.
The allegations include mishandling prescriptions, abusing drugs and alcohol, and incompetence.
Eyewitness News anchor Erica Bryant investigated how the board is holding doctors accountable and making people aware when there's a problem.
A woman who Eyewitness News is calling Jamie is scarred.
“It's terrible,” she said. “I'm permanently disfigured.”
She shared photos with Eyewitness News that she said are the results of a botched liposuction.
“I have constant pain and burning,” she said.
She said Dr. Paul Carl Drago performed the procedure. She filed a complaint about him with the North Carolina Medical Board.
The board reviewed a number of incidents involving Dr. Drago and determined that he failed to provide the standard of care. The board then suspended his license.
“I think we're very tough. Some people might say we're too tough,” said Dr. Will Walker, president of the North Carolina Medical Board.
Walker said if the board determines a physician is a danger to patients, it acts quickly to discipline them.
He said there has been an increase in the number of actions against doctors.
“Does the increase concern you?” Bryant asked.
“I think it should concern everyone,” he said.
An Eyewitness News investigation uncovered that in 2010, the number of doctors disciplined for incompetence, failure to meet standards or quality of care and alcohol/substance abuse jumped 50 percent. Disciplinary actions for prescribing issues went up 70 percent.
And those numbers have stayed up for the past three years.
The medical board attributes the higher numbers to many factors. It's hired more attorneys and investigators to pursue cases. It now has a new, additional tool called a public letter of concern -- an alert that informs the public that there is a serious issue -- and the board is making patients more aware of how to file complaints and research physicians on its website.
“Did you feel you did your homework on the physician?” Bryant asked.
“I definitely did my due diligence,” Jamie said. “He came out looking great on paper.”
Jamie said it was only after problems with her procedure that she realized she wasn't really clear about some of the information on the medical board's website.
She said Dr. Drago was listed as board-certified in facial, plastic and reconstructive surgery. But those boards are not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties.
“There are legitimate boards which we consider boards that are members of the American Board of Medical Specialties, but there are other boards that consider themselves legitimate but which are not under that umbrella,” Walker said.
So, Dr. Walker said his board made a change. Now on the site, boards that are ABMS-certified have an asterisk beside them.
Jamie said that might have led her to make a different choice.
“What do you want patients to know?” Bryant asked.
“They need to thoroughly check out their doctor,” Jamie said. “I know what to do now, and I think this segment will teach other people what they need to do.”
Drago's license is suspended indefinitely in North Carolina, but South Carolina's medical board has cleared him. He's reportedly working in Barnwell County.
Eyewitness News made numerous attempts to reach him but has not heard back.
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