10 News Investigators: Board of Medicine allows fondling physician Dr. Gunwant Dhaliwal to keep his license

7:18 AM, May 1, 2013   |    comments
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NEW PORT RICHEY, Florida -- He's a doctor the 10 News Investigators have followed for more than six years because of accusations that he was fondling patients' -- and even employees' -- breasts.

We heard complains like, "He was feeling around my breasts all over" or "I left there and I felt awkward and just felt dirty."

Over and over women patients, even a prospective employee, all told us a similar story -- that Pasco physician Dr. Gunwant Dhaliwal fondled their breasts.

In fact, we found records showing Dr. Dhaliwal had been accused of touching female patients inappropriately as far back as 1999.

After our story aired, Dr. Dhaliwal was criminally charged in two of the cases. He went to jail for one of them, and still faces charges in the other case, as well as a civil lawsuit.

We first confronted Dhaliwal outside one of his clinics back in 2007 and said, "This lawsuit says you have engaged in harmful and unlawful conduct."

He abruptly replied, "No comments."

When we persisted and asked, "Did you fondle her breast?" he once again said, "No comments."

Follow 10 News Reporter Mike Deeson on twitter @MikeDeeson

Dhaliwal lost the case. A jury awarded that victim more than $800,000.

We wanted to know what the state was doing about the doctor and his "hands-on" technique. Department of Health officials promised action. Investigator Bob Garey told us, "We take it very seriously, and all we have to do is establish there was a doctor-patient relationship."

But that was more than six years ago.

And Dr. Dhaliwal? He finally appeared before the Florida Board of Medicine earlier this month.

Some board members, like Dr. Jason Rosenberg, wanted Dhaliwal out of medicine for good. Rosenberg told the board, "He was convicted of a crime we consider heinous. We should revoke his license. Nothing else is acceptable."

But Dhaliwal's attorney told the board it was all a misunderstanding. He blamed our stories.

He told the board, "The evidence is a media report that is wrong."

In the end, board members suspended Doctor Dhaliwal's license instead of revoking it, and ordered him to pay a fine. But if the doctor passes a psychological examination, he could return to the board and be back practicing as soon as six months from now.

We wanted to talk Dr. Dhaliwal about the case and ask him if he has anything to say to his former patients. He didn't want to talk to us. When we tried to talk to the fondling physician outside the hearing, his attorney blocked our way and barked, "Would you please get out of my way?"

Dhaliwal never answered our question.

So why did it take so long for the Board of Medicine to even hand out this punishment? Dr. Zachariah Zachariah, the chairman of the Board of Medicine, said state investigators didn't bring the case to them until recently.

Zachariah said, "It's like a judge. A judge cannot go chase a case, the prosecutors have to chase the case and bring it to the judge, and it is the same thing."

While the Florida Department of Health, through the Board of Medicine, is supposed to protect patients, some point to cases like Dr. Dhaliwal's and say it appears as if the board is more interested in protecting physicians than consumers.

Board member Dr. Jason Rosenberg agrees, telling his fellow board members, "What are we telling the citizens of Florida? Your doctor fondles your breasts, gets deprived of his liberty after his day in court, and now we're going to go back and let him practice? Wrong message."

New Port Richey State Representative Mike Fasano agrees. He said the board needs to come down harder on physicians like Dhaliwal. He said, "It really disappoints me that those individuals on that board are not yelling and screaming out, 'We need to be able to go after these bad doctors.'"

Dhaliwal appears before the board again in June.

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