A physician who gave up his Florida license and became the only doctor in a small town in Nebraska won the hearts of the townspeople. But on Monday he lost his attempt to practice medicine there.
Dr. Bernardo Bilang's application for a medical license was turned down by Nebraska authorities based on his mistakes in Florida and Kansas.
Bilang, 59, who voluntarily turned in his Florida license in 1989, is awaiting federal bank fraud charges in Tampa. He once practiced medicine in Pinellas and Citrus counties.
The Nebraska Board of Examiners in Medicine and Surgery voted 6-0 on March 28 to deny Bilang a license. His appeal to the Nebraska Health Department was rejected Monday.
More than half of Sargent's 710 residents signed a petition supporting him. Like many rural communities, Sargent has had trouble attracting doctors and has had to rely on physicians from towns as much as 45 miles away.
Losing Bilang is "pretty depressing," said Barb Hammond, assistant administrator for the Sargent District Hospital.
Bilang's problems date to 1986, when he was given a one-year license probation for prescribing drugs to an Inverness woman with narcolepsy, a disorder that causes people to fall asleep unexpectedly. The state said the prescription was inappropriate.
Another complaint was filed against Bilang after a 74-year-old Clearwater woman died at Morton Plant Hospital in February 1986.
The woman had meningitis, a bacterial infection that carries a high mortality rate but sometimes responds to strong antibiotics. She was given no antibiotics, and Bilang did not see her before she died. Yet when he dictated the notes of the case, he made it appear as if he had examined her.
A state hearing officer faulted Bilang for failing to prescribe antibiotics, for placing false statements in the record and for a "comfort measures only" order normally reserved for patients who are in the final stages of a terminal disease.
Bilang voluntarily turned in his Florida license shortly before his case was to come before the Florida Board of Medicine.
Bilang faced sanctions elsewhere.
In December, he agreed never to practice obstetrics in Kansas after a baby he delivered in Meade suffered facial paralysis.
In March, Bilang surrendered his federal registration to prescribe drugs because he failed to inform authorities he had moved to Kansas.
The trial Bilang faces in Tampa is on federal charges he obtained $75,000 in loans by giving false information.