An Iowa physician accused of sexual misconduct with a 19-year-old patient is allegedly putting the public at risk by continuing to practice while refusing to undergo a state-ordered psychosexual evaluation.
The doctor’s refusal to undergo the assessment has stalled for several months the Iowa Board of Medicine’s investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against the doctor.
Last fall, the state argued in administrative-hearing filings that “these serious allegations need to be fully investigated as quickly as possible,” noting that the doctor was currently practicing while the confidential order for his evaluation remained sealed from public view.
As a result, the state argued, “members of the public seeking care from him have no way to know that his patient/victim has made this very serious allegation of harm.”
An administrative law judge sided with the state, ruling that “the allegations are very serious, and this case could involve a significant danger to the public.”
But today, more than a year after the board first ordered the doctor to submit to the evaluation, the investigation remains stalled, the doctor’s practice of medicine has not been suspended, and the state has yet to publicly identify him.
In an effort to block the evaluation ordered by the board, the doctor in question is now suing the state under the name “Dr. John Doe.”
However, in a May 28 motion filed by the physician’s attorneys, they inadvertently referenced his actual name: “Dr. Salaria.” On May 29, the attorneys sought to have the entire 28-page motion sealed from public view, and a judge agreed. The document, however, remained online and was publicly accessible throughout June and July when it was accessed by the Iowa Capital Dispatch. It has since been sealed by the clerk of court.
According to the Iowa Board of Medicine, the only Iowa-licensed physician with the last name of Salaria is Dr. Vikrant Salaria of the First Care Medical Center in Council Bluffs.
State and county records indicate Salaria has worked in Iowa for at least 15 years; practices in Council Bluffs alongside two other physicians; and works with his wife, who is also an Iowa-licensed physician. Court records filed by attorneys for “Dr. John Doe” indicate he shares all of those same characteristics.
When contacted by the Iowa Capital Dispatch, Salaria said he knows nothing about any litigation, evaluation order or action taken by the Board of Medicine.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to discuss the matter any further.
In the lawsuit that he has filed against the Board of Medicine, “Dr. John Doe” claims the board’s confidential order for a “comprehensive physical, neuropsychological, mental health, unprofessional conduct, professional boundaries and sexual misconduct evaluation” is unwarranted and that the allegations against him are unfounded.
According to the physician’s attorneys, the alleged victim’s claims are “inconsistent, inaccurate, bizarre and not to be believed.” They say the teenager complained of sexual misconduct in retaliation for the doctor’s refusal to prescribe her certain medications.
The Board of Medicine disputes that and says the patient “makes a compelling case” that calls into question the doctor’s competency, adding that the physician is now attempting to “distract the board with theories of drug-addicted, revenge-seeking accusers.”
According to court records, the doctor is accused of placing a finger inside the 19-year-old patient’s vagina on at least three occasions, massaging the inside of her thighs and fondling her breasts, all without a nurse present, and all without any apparent justification.
According to the Board of Medicine, the patient sent a written message to a medical assistant in the doctor’s office after one examination, stating, “The last few times came in for abdominal pain. The doc was extremely weird and for 1. Didn’t wash his hands 2. Didn’t use gloves & 3. There wasn’t a nurse present. To be completely blunt he stuck his fingers inside me and just felt around “for a cyst.” He’s not a gyno so it isn’t even what he should be doing … isn’t that completely unethical?”
The medical assistant wrote back and stated, “what I don’t understand is why a nurse wasn’t present I really don’t know what to say, I did forward the messages to … the office manager to see what she has to say about it.”
According to the board, the doctor’s medical assistant later told a board investigator she was unaware of any allegations of sexual impropriety. After she was confronted with the written messages she had exchanged with the teenage patient, she said she had forgotten about the matter. She also acknowledged she never forwarded the patient’s complaints to the office manager as she had told the patient she would.
In court filings, the board says the medical assistant’s claim that she forgot about the matter was “so difficult to comprehend” that it was, “in fact, incredible.”
At a hearing before the board last December, the doctor was asked why he objected to a confidential evaluation. According to court records, he replied, “I have never done this, so I have nothing to do with any of this. So do I really want to go through all this stress? The answer is no.”
In June, the board filed a court brief noting there had been “no public statement of charges, the (doctor) continues to practice, and he was given an opportunity to contest the allegations” against him. It argued that its order for an evaluation is “nothing more than a request by the board that this licensee comply with his statutory obligations to submit to a confidential clinical evaluation at a location of the board’s choosing.”
A hearing on the doctor’s court petition to have the evaluation order declared illegal was held at the Polk County Courthouse on June 26.
The judge in the case has yet to issue a decision.