Clark County doctor accused of performing surgeries under the influence

CLARK COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – The state has suspended a Clark County surgeon’s license after he is accused of operating while under the influence of prescription drugs.

According to an Agreed Order from the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, the board received a report from Robert Parker, the hospital administrator for Clark County Regional Medical Center, on May 14, stating Dr. Michael R. Heilig was placed on leave and his privileges suspended due to concerns he was impaired in the operating room.

The order says Parker got a call from the staff on May 10 as Heilig was about to begin his third surgery of the day.

In a written statement, a nurse in the operating room reported Heilig “almost fell like he lost his balance” and “was talking a little weird” on the first surgery.

During the second surgery, the nurse stated he was “losing his balance” and “not acting like himself.”

She said on the third surgery, Heilig was “walking backwards like stumbling with his eyes closed and mumbling” and that he “went to sit on a stool and almost missed the stool.” She reports Heilig “tried to put the Esmatch on prior to draping and I told him ‘Dr. Heilig, we need to drape first.’ He was saying, ‘we do, we do,’ like he was confused on the order of what we do.”

She said the surgery was stopped “when he had the drapes in his hand.”

Parker told the board he met with Heilig and felt he was impaired. He stated Heilig agreed to a drug screen.

According to the order, Heilig’s drug screen showed the presence of alpha-hydroxyalprazolam (Xanax), noroxycodone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone.

Heilig was a partner at Kentucky Orthopedic Associates.

One of his partners at the practice, Dr. Greg Grau, and the manager of the practice were both interviewed by the board.

According to the order, both said records seemed to indicate that Heilig was self-prescribing Ambien, as well as phoning-in prescriptions for Ambien for himself under Dr. Grau’s DEA registration, along with the DEA registration of the other partner at the practice, Dr. James Rice.

Grau and the practice manager also said records showed Heilig prescribed Ambien to his wife seventeen times and to his brother 24 times. They also said Heilig prescribed Tramadol once to his brother.

The manager of the practice stated neither Heilig’s wife nor his brother were patients of the practice and there were no charts to verify the prescriptions.

Dr. Grau and Dr. Rice provided written statements to the board, saying they did not provide or have knowledge of any prescriptions to Heilig or his family.

The order said on May 14, Heilig was evaluated by the medical director of the Kentucky Physicians Health Foundation (“the Foundation”), who determined he should undergo further evaluation.

Heilig was evaluated at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in June and, according to the order, was diagnosed with Ambien Use Disorder (Mild) and Percocet Use Disorder (Mild).

Heilig signed a five-year contract with the Foundation on June 25 that included a provision he would not return to clinical practice during that time, according to the order.

Heilig gave a written response to the board on June 22, stating that he performed orthopedic surgeries on his mother and his sister-in-law and believed medical records substantiated the need for prescription medication. He pledged that he will not treat or prescribe any medication to himself or his family members ever again, unless in an emergency situation. He also stated he enrolled in the “Prescribing Controlled Drugs” course by Vanderbilt University.

The order states Heilig acknowledged to the board that he had a problem with Zolpidem and outlines the steps he is taking to address his problem.

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