U.S. Doctor Fired For Intoxication At Liberian Ebola Unit, Surrenders License

By Jackie Farwell, BDN Staff

A Maine physician with a history of substance abuse problems, including showing up intoxicated to treat Ebola patients while working in West Africa, voluntarily surrendered his medical license, according to a state board.

Dr. David R. Austin’s most recent practice in Maine was located in Sanford, according to a Thursday news release from the Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine.

On April 14, the board determined Austin presented an “imminent danger” to patients and suspended his license for 30 days. He had been fired in February from a contract position with Quicksilver Group International, which provided relief care to Ebola patients in Liberia, according to investigation documents.

A Quicksilver executive told the board Austin arrived on Feb. 8 under the influence of alcohol and unable to care for patients at its Ebola treatment unit. Austin recognized he was unfit to work and arranged a shift change, later admitting that he had consumed “excess levels of alcohol,” the executive wrote in an email to the board. After he was confronted, Austin reportedly said he planned to seek treatment upon returning to the U.S.

He had agreed to avoid alcohol and drugs as part of his contract with Quicksilver, according to the email, summarized in investigation documents.

Austin maintained that he was not on duty at the time of the incident, acknowledging he drank to excess on his day off, according to the documents.

Austin had been evaluated in Maine for substance abuse issues after an OUI charge in March 2014. He was found to pose no risk to patients but was informed he’d need to enroll in a program for health professionals with addiction issues if similar concerns arose in the future.

After the board learned Austin was terminated by Quicksilver, he declined another recommended evaluation, the news release states.

Austin voluntarily surrendered his medical license in a consent agreement signed with the board on June 9. He can no longer treat patients in Maine.

Austin previously disputed that the board had grounds to discipline him, according to the investigation documents. In signing the consent agreement, Austin neither admitted nor denied the facts of the board’s investigation, but agreed the panel had sufficient evidence to discipline him for habitual substance abuse if the case proceeded to a hearing.

He may apply for reinstatement of his license, but must demonstrate that his practice of medicine poses no risk to patients.

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