NewsCovering Kentucky


Clark Co. Surgeon Accused Of Operating Under The Influence

Posted at 5:04 PM, Oct 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-25 19:06:59-04

WINCHESTER, Ky. (LEX 18)– A Clark County doctor’s medical license is currently restricted for an indefinite period of time, according to an Agreed Order from the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure. The order says this is due to concerns of possible impairment in the operating room of the Clark Regional Medical Center.

Clark Regional Medical Center said that Dr. Michael R. Heilig had privileges to practice there since 2002. His privileges have been suspended until further notice.

Heilig specializes in Orthopedic Surgery.

Kentucky Orthopedic Associate’s website

The hospital administrator reported to the board that on May 10, he received a call that the staff had concerns about Heilig being impaired in the operating room. Robert Parker, the administrator, said that Heilig had completed two surgeries and was about to begin the third.

Parker told the board that he met with Heilig and felt that he was impaired. He said that Heilig submitted to a drug screen, was sent home, and was advised that his privileges were suspended pending the result of a referral to the Kentucky Physicians Health Foundation.

The order says that a copy of Heilig’s drug screen showed the presence of alpha-hydroxy-alprazolam, noroxycodone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone.  The lab report result stated that Heilig submitted a prescription for oxycodone from 2009.

A nurse working with Heilig in the operating room on May 10 provided a written statement to the board, saying that Heilig was “talking a little weird” and “almost fell like he lost his balance,” during the first surgery. She said that he was “losing his balance” and “not acting like himself” on the second surgery. During the third surgery, she said he was walking “backward like stumbling with his eyes closed and mumbling” and that he “went to sit on a stool and almost missed the stool.” She said that, “he tried to put the Esmarch on prior to draping” and she told him that they needed to drape first. She said that he said “we do, we do; like he was confused on the order of what to do.” She said they aborted the case when he had the drapes in his hand, according to the order.

He was practicing as a partner at the Kentucky Orthopedic Associates along with Greg Grau M.D. and James Rice, M.D.  During an interview with the board, Grau said that the practice manager reviewed records after the incident at the hospital and they noticed that Heilig appeared to be self-prescribing Ambien as well as phoning in prescriptions for Ambien for himself under Dr. Grau’s and Dr. Rice’s DEA registrations.

The order also stated that the practice manager noticed that Heilig had prescribed Ambien to his wife seventeen times and to his brother twenty-four times. It also stated he had prescribed Tramadol to his brother once. The practice manager said that there were no charts to verify the prescriptions and that Heilig’s wife and brother are not patients of the practice.

Grau and Rice said that they did not provide or have knowledge of any prescriptions to the licensee or his family.

A practice consultant told LEX 18 Thursday that Dr.  Heilig is no longer with Kentucky Orthopedic Associates.

On or around June 3, the order says that Heilig was assessed at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation under the recommendation of the Kentucky Physicians Health Foundation. Heilig was diagnosed with Axis I diagnoses of Ambien Use Disorder (Mild) and Percocet Use Disorder (Mild).

On June 22, Heilig wrote a written response to the Board that stated he performed orthopedic surgeries on his mother and his sister-in-law and believed medical records substantiated the need for prescription medication. He pledged to not treat or prescribe any medication to himself or his family members ever again, unless in an emergency situation. He said he’d enrolled in the Prescribing Controlled Drugs course at Vanderbilt Unversity and that in his written response to the Board, he acknowledged his problem with Zolpidem (generic Ambien) and outlined steps he was taking to address his problem.

Heilig agreed to a five-year contract with the Foundation on June 25 that included a provision that Heilig will not return to the clinical practice of medicine until he has three consecutive months of documented sobriety.

Clark Regional Medical Center released a statement:

Clark Regional Medical Center is committed to providing excellent quality of care to all of its patients in an environment that promotes patient safety. Dr. Heilig is an independent physician with a practice based in Winchester, KY.  He was formerly a member of the medical staff at Clark Regional Medical Center from 2002 to 2018.  As a practice, the hospital does not discuss any matters involving current or former members of our medical staff.