Doctor's License Suspended, Alcoholism Alleged

Encinitas psychiatrist reportedly prescribed wrong dosage to patients; admitted drinking problem

An Encinitas doctor’s license was temporarily suspended by a state judge, after several patients and an investigator presented evidence that he was practicing while intoxicated.

Patients allege that Dennis M. Pavlinac, a psychiatrist, wrote incorrect prescriptions, could not remember who his patients were and had difficulty recalling what he was doing, according to court documents.

His office assistant was often concerned about Pavlinac, and says in the complaints that the doctor admitted to having an alcohol abuse problem several times over the past year.

Pavlinac was also arrested in 2005 for driving under the influence.

The Medical Board of California filed a petition against Pavlinac at the end of September. Since many of the accusers believed Pavlinac was a danger to his patients, the board asked for an immediate suspension of his license.

Judge Robert Walker granted the suspension on September 20. Pavlinac now awaits a hearing to determine whether his license will be permanently suspended.

NBCSanDiego contacted Pavlinac for a comment, but the call was not immediately returned. A voicemail recording stated that he will be out on medical leave for three weeks.

The office assistant quoted in the petition heard many complaints from patients – for example, on August 16, Pavlinac arrived late to an appointment, but was unable to fit the key in the door because his hands were shaking, the petition said. A patient described Pavlinac as acting drunk. He reportedly ran into his desk and often asked repeated questions.

The same day, Pavlinac told a patient he was sorry he missed her appointment, to which the patient responded, “Dr. Pavlinac, I saw you yesterday. We met for 45 minutes, remember?”

Later, an investigator arrived to collect a urine sample. Pavlinac told her that he was “having a heck of a time getting sober,” the complaint read.

Julie D'Angelo Fellmeth with the USD Center for Public Interest Law said that if the allegations are true, there could be dire consequences.

"If a doctor prescribes the wrong dose for someone, that could be a matter of life and death."

Fellmeth added that although the Medical Board is likely understaffed and underfunded, delaying the suspension as long as they did was potentially dangerous. There ought to be a more direct process for cases in which doctors might be practicing under the influence, she said.

Pavlinac’s next hearing is scheduled for Friday. As of Wednesday afternoon, he had not filed a response to the position denying the declarations made against him.

The Medical Board stated that they have "taken the necessary steps to ensure public protection by requesting" the immediate suspension of Pavlinac's license.

In legal documents filed Wednesday, he agreed to remain on suspension until this matter is resolved. His lawyer did not wish to comment.

Do you have a similar experience with a doctor? If not, what would you do if your doctor appeared intoxicated? Comment below or send us a Tweetvia Twitter @nbcsandiego or add your comment to our Facebook page.

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