OCEAN COUNTY – A Manahawkin doctor was suspended from his privileges and roles in the pediatrics department of Southern Ocean Medical Center after the state suspended him from the Medicaid program.
Dr. Michael Bleiman was temporarily suspended from participating in the Medicaid program after a state complaint was filed accusing his office of improperly storing vaccines given to children in a charity program.
That resulted in an automatic suspension of his privileges and roles at SOMC, where Bleiman’s office is located, the hospital confirmed.
SOMC President Bob Adams explained the hospital’s action was standard policy.
“As is standard policy for any physician, medical staff by-laws require automatic suspension of privileges and roles if an individual is suspended from the Medicaid program. We have adhered to this policy as a result of Dr. Bleiman’s suspension from the Medicaid program. In the past, Dr. Bleiman held the position of chief of Pediatrics,” Adam said in a statement to The Southern Ocean Times.
The State Comptroller’s office temporarily suspended Bleiman from Medicaid and NJ FamilyCare programs after accusations the doctor improperly stored vaccines for in-need children through the Vaccines for Children program.
The temporary suspension affects Dr. Bleiman’s office in Manahawkin, Southern Ocean Pediatrics and Family Medicine, located inside Southern Ocean Medical Center. As previously reported by the Southern Ocean Times, the action dated January 27 through the Medicaid Fraud Division suspends him and his practice from “performing any services funded by Medicaid programs.”
“The MFD has the authority to suspend practitioners in order to protect the interests of the Medicaid program and its recipients,” State Comptroller Philip James Degnan said in a statement. “The alleged actions in this matter presented adequate evidence that quality of care issues existed and we took immediate, appropriate action to temporarily suspend this practitioner from the Medicaid program.”
The suspensions came several weeks after the state Attorney General’s office issued a complaint against Bleiman, filed January 9 through the State Board of Medical Examiners, that alleges gross negligence, professional misconduct and other violations by Dr. Bleiman, in regard to the office’s temperature logs, use of quarantined vaccines and other record-keeping issues through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.
VFC is a federally funded, state operated program that provides 1.6 million free or low-cost vaccines to eligible low-income children at more than 1,000 medical offices around the state each year.
According to the complaint, Bleiman’s office received the training and approvals to take part in the program and administer vaccines such as measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis A & B, rotavirus, DTaP/Tdap, Hib, pneumococcal, polio, meningococcal and HPV.
But by storing the vaccines outside the range of acceptable temperatures, the vaccines may have lost some of their potency. The complaint alleges those vaccines were administered through July 28 but were refrigerated improperly.
As a result, the state Department of Health urged 900 families to check if their child needed re-vaccination.
“Southern Ocean Medical Center is completely committed to the health and well-being of the community. Our Medical Center has partnered with the New Jersey Department of Health to assist the families of our community who were affected by potentially compromised VFC vaccines,” Adams said. However, “It’s important to note, the complaint/investigation is a private physician issue between Michael Bleiman, M.D., and the New Jersey Department of Health.”
Since the end of February, 150 families have contacted SOMC, Adams said.
Families have also called the DOH hotline for assistance through that state department. Nicole Kirgan, spokesperson for the DOH, said 220 calls have been placed since the hotline opened January 10. Also, 904 individuals were mailed letters to notify them, urging they be checked for re-vaccination. That was completed January 11, Kirgan said.
“The Department also sent notification to local and county health departments, posted FAQs on our Vaccine Preventable Disease Program’s website (English and Spanish) and the Vaccines for Children pages. Our Vaccines for Children program also sent separate event notification to their providers regarding the issue. Public and private stakeholders such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, area local health departments and the New Jersey Imaging Network were also notified and directed to the FAQs,” Kirgan said.
The DOH hotline is 866-448-2432 and patient follow-up resources are available at nj.gov/health/cd/vpdp/documents/vfc_faqs.pdf.
The hospital is also hosting several vaccination clinics for impacted families, with the first held February 28.
Of the 150 calls placed to the hospital, the next step is to assist with plans for those families, including participation in the clinics, Adams said.
“Our health care team has completed the training to utilize the State’s electronic access system to document vaccinations and established a plan to assist these families,” said the president. “We are following up with families who contacted us to schedule appointments. If there are families who haven’t contacted us as of yet, they can call 609-978-2111 to schedule an appointment.”