A political appointee on the Florida Board of Medicine failed to ensure that a surgical office in Ocala complied with a state regulation on anesthesia, according to a complaint.
The Florida Department of Health — which the medical board is a part of — filed the complaint earlier this summer against Ravi Chandra, a vascular surgeon who is a member of the board that regulates and disciplines doctors. Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him to the 15-member group last year.
In July 2021, a “routine inspection” found that paramedics were “providing anesthesia care” at a surgical office in Ocala, violating a state rule that says a qualified anesthesia provider, such as an anesthesiologist, must assist a surgeon, according to the five-page complaint.
Chandra was the “designated physician” at the office, Cardiothoracic & Vascular Surgical Associates, meaning he was responsible for its compliance with state health and safety regulations, the complaint says. A vascular surgeon specializes in treating problems with arteries and veins.
In July, the department asked the Florida Board of Medicine to penalize Chandra, and sanctions could range from a fine to license revocation.
Chandra, 65, didn’t respond to an email and messages left at his office seeking comment. The governor’s office referred a request for comment to the Florida Department of Health. The department declined to comment. In an email, board chairperson David Diamond said it is “not appropriate for me to comment on pending matters” before the board.
DeSantis appointed Chandra to the board before the inspection last year.
The complaint against the surgeon, which was made public in July, offers few specifics on what the inspection found.
The Tampa Bay Times filed a public records request on Aug. 16 seeking documents related to the inspection. The state has yet to provide them.
The department didn’t answer questions from the Times last week about the status of Chandra’s disciplinary case.
Doctors facing a complaint can request a hearing before an administrative law judge to dispute allegations; request an informal hearing before the board in an attempt to mitigate any disciplinary action; negotiate a settlement with the department, which requires final approval from the board; or voluntarily relinquish their license, according to a handbook for new board members.
During the board’s most recent meeting in early August, Chandra’s case wasn’t on the agenda. He voted on other disciplinary cases, according to meeting minutes.
The board must include 12 licensed physicians in good standing with the state. Three other board members must be Florida residents who have never been health care practitioners, according to state law.
Chandra’s license is listed as being clear and active. It’s unclear how the disciplinary case could affect his board appointment. His term ends in late October, records show.
Cardiothoracic & Vascular Surgical Associates is also facing a complaint from the department and could be penalized. The office didn’t respond to a phone message and questions submitted via an online form.
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Anesthesiology is a specialized branch of medicine involving drugs that prevent pain during surgeries, said Michael Champeau, president-elect of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.
“The old adage is, ‘Well, we’re the ones who keep people alive while surgeons are doing things that would otherwise kill them,’” Champeau said.
Local anesthesia numbs a small part of the body for procedures like wart removal. Regional anesthesia is used for surgeries such as cesarean sections. General anesthesia makes patients unconscious for major operations, including open-heart surgery.
The complaint against Chandra doesn’t specify what exactly the paramedics were doing.
To become an anesthesiologist, people typically need to complete at least 12 years of education, including four years of medical school, Champeau said.
In comparison, it usually takes four months of training to become an emergency medical technician in Florida, then a year of training to become a paramedic, said Todd Soard, president of the Florida EMS Association.
Paramedics in the state specialize in emergency care, Soard said, but are not trained to administer anesthesia.