Fountain Valley Anesthesiologist Disciplined in California was Dinged in Boston 11 Years Ago for Snoozing in Surgery, Huffing Gas

The bad doctor is in. Illustration by Matt Coker

A Fountain Valley anesthesiologist, whose license to practice medicine in California was recently restricted, previously had his Massachusetts license revoked for falling asleep during a surgical procedure and inhaling anesthetic gas while on lunch break a month later. 

The most recent order against the medical license of Dr. Thomas Hwei Ho went into effect on June 8, according to the Medical Board of California.

Click here to read the order that includes an acceptance letter Ho and his attorney Peter R. Osinoff signed on June 7 agreeing to the restriction of the anesthesiologist’s license to practice as well as the California board’s justification for the discipline.

There is no mention there or anywhere in the Medical Board of California online database of Ho’s earlier discipline by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, which licenses doctors in that state.

In fact, the Massachusetts online database is in the middle of an upgrade that began with the most recent cases being re-uploaded first. Detailed records from the years when Ho was practicing there are not yet available on the site, although they can be asked for in writing.

What does still exist online is reporter Liz Kowalczyk’s July 26, 2007, Boston Globe story, “State Revokes License of Resident Who Fell Asleep in OR.” She reports that both Massachusetts incidents happened during rotations at Children’s Hospital Boston in late 2005.

“Ho had taken a prescription drug that caused him to doze off, the board said, and when he fell asleep he was the only anesthesiologist in the operating room,” Kowalczyk writes of the first incident.

No one was harmed in either incident, a Children’s Hospital of Boston spokesperson said at the time, but the Massachusetts board nonetheless retroactively revoked Ho’s medical license on July 25, 2007.

The Massachusetts medical license number for the Dr. Thomas Ho disciplined in that state matches the one Dr. Thomas Hwei Ho lists alongside his California medical license number in online biographies. Here is how one such bio began:

Dr. Thomas Ho specializes in Anesthesiology in Garden Grove area and has over 15 years of experience in the field of medicine. The current location address for Dr. Thomas Ho is 12601 Garden Grove Boulevard, Garden Grove CA. He graduated from University Of California, San Francisco School Of Medicine with his medical degree in 2003. He is affiliated with numerous hospitals, including Garden Grove Hospital & Medical Center (CA) and more. Dr. Ho is accepting new patients at his medical office and center location and available for appointments, preventative care, medical care as well as ongoing patient care.

At the time he was disciplined in Massachusetts, Ho was informed he could apply for a new license if he demonstrated at least 15 months of continuous sobriety, and compliance with a chemical dependency monitoring contract.

June’s Medical Board of California order does not detail the circumstances that led to the license restriction, although it does stipulate that he must abstain from use of alcohol and controlled substances, undergo drug testing, attend substance abuse support group meetings, see a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist and have a substance abuse work site monitor.

The order further stipulates that Ho must notify hospitals and clinics where he has privileges of the status of his medical license.

Carlos Villatoro, a Medical Board of California public information officer in Sacramento, sent a response to the Weekly that states the board cannot provide more information about the circumstances other than what is listed on Ho’s online physician profile page, which is pretty much what has been presented in this story.

“In general terms, if during the course of an investigation the investigator uncovers evidence suggesting that allowing the doctor to practice would put the public in danger, then the Board can petition OAH [Office of Administrative Hearings] for an interim suspension order,” reads the statement. “Additional details in the case against Dr. Ho may be available by contacting the OAH as they may have more documents available regarding this matter.”

The OAH has not responded to the Weekly‘s request for additional documents.

The statement sent by Villatoro reports that “more information will be provided in the Accusation that will be filed in the near future. The restriction order in the case of Dr. Ho will be in place until the case against him is concluded.”

OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.

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