BOARD OF MEDICINE
State investigating Portsmouth psychiatrist
Restrictions placed on addiction treatment specialist
By Jeff McMenemy
January 21, 2016
Sarah Blodgett, division director for health care professions, confirmed Thursday the state Board of Medicine has launched an investigation into Dr. George Nowak and the investigation “is ongoing.” Nowak practices in an office off Islington Street.
Nowak, in the agreement for practice restrictions he signed after the investigation was launched, can only conduct psychotherapy with his two existing female patients, “who are both over the age of 60,” according to the agreement.
The agreement also orders Nowak to refrain from “conducting Suboxone treatment with any new female patients for more than emergency services at addiction recovery services for no longer than a three-week period” and to “not see any female medication management patients for more than 15 to 20 minutes for follow-up appointments and 60 to 90 minutes for initial medication consultants.”
Suboxone is used to treat patients addicted to opiates, according to a website on the drug.
When he is practicing, under terms of the agreement, Nowak must always have “a receptionist in the office,” according to the agreement.
“In the rare event that the receptionist needs to leave the office expectantly,” he must contact NHPHP (New Hampshire Professionals Health Program) as soon as he knows the receptionist needs to leave, according to the agreement.
The order also states Nowak cannot “provide after office hours visits, home visits or emergency interventions.”
Nowak could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday morning. His attorney, Andrea Daly of Portsmouth, declined to comment when she was reached. But in the agreement, Nowak states, “I admit to no violations … of any other laws, statutes or regulations.”
“Due to the current ongoing status of the investigation, I retain the right to request a hearing on the matters underlying this preliminary agreement for practice restrictions,” Nowak said in the agreement.
Nowak also agreed to “remain abstinent from all substances of abuse,” according to the agreement and to “maintain a NHPHP approved psychotherapy treatment provider for weekly visits for at least six months,” according to the agreement. Those visits must then be followed up by “bi-monthly appointments for a time deemed appropriate by those who are treating me,” Nowak said in the agreement, and he further agreed to participate in any “follow-up treatment recommended by the Keystone Center.”
The Keystone Center is a drug and alcohol treatment provider headquartered in Nashua that recently signed an agreement with Rockingham County to provide residential and outpatient treatment for drug court clients.
Nowak also agreed to enter into a “monitoring contract” with NHPHP and agreed that “investigators from the board and or the New Hampshire attorney general’s office may make unannounced visits” to his office or where his patient records are stored “in order to monitor compliance with the terms of this agreement.” “This monitoring may include, but is not limited to, the review of a random sample of the records” of his patients or speaking with his office staff, according to the agreement.
He also agreed to “furnish a copy of this agreement to any company or entity” that he wants to work for, according to the agreement.
State law forbids Blodgett from discussing the specifics of the allegations made against Nowak, she said. Asked why the board launches an investigation, Blodgett said, “generally speaking and not speaking to any specifics to this case, we start investigations based on a number of different sources, including patient complaints and complaints from other members of the public.”
The length of investigations vary, Blodgett said, but she acknowledged “more complex cases can take over a year.”
The board typically investigates 400 to 500 cases a year, she said, and issues preliminary agreements for practice restrictions in only a few of them, she said. “In cases where the board feels restrictions need to be put in place, they will do that as a stop gap measure,” Blodgett said.
Nancy Notice, spokeswoman for Portsmouth Regional Hospital, released a statement Thursday about Nowak.
“We are aware of and take very seriously the proceedings involving Dr. George Nowak and the New Hampshire Board of Medicine. Dr. Nowak has not admitted or consulted with patients at our medical facility since 2014,” the statement reads. “Portsmouth Regional Hospital is committed to providing a safe and healing environment for all of our patients.”