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Doctor not in: Psychiatrist responsible for patient care says he didn't see them in person

Denver7 Investigates uncovers internal emails describing "enormous patient load" at former Colorado mental health facility
Emails cited in lawsuit
Tibor Hetei's family
Attorney handling lawsuits against the former Clear View facility
Posted at 9:45 PM, Oct 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-05 17:49:16-04

DENVER — Emails uncovered by Denver7 Investigates raise significant questions about a doctor’s role in treating some of Colorado’s most vulnerable.

The communications sent to his supervisors show a psychiatrist tasked with providing patient care admitting he never saw the people he treated at a former Colorado mental health hospital over a two-year period.

“My reaction was "Wow., this is some pretty powerful evidence." I called it a smoking gun," said Jerome Reinan, an attorney handling lawsuits against the former Clear View facility.

Reinan said the emails, a public record, are now a key part of his lawsuit against the stakeholders connected to Clear View Behavioral Health.

In 2020, a series of reports by Denver7 Investigates led the state of Colorado to shut down Clear View Behavioral Health in Johnstown. Prior to the state's action, patients, family members and insiders trusted Denver7 to expose what they described as the secrets inside the privately-owned mental health hospital.

A few weeks after Denver7 aired those reports, internal emails written by one of the facility's lead psychiatrists, Sohail Punjwani, raised concerns about not seeing patients at the facility face-to-face.

The emails begin with the doctor writing, “I have been admitting to Clear View for the past two years without seeing a single patient…"

Punjwani’s internal correspondence goes on to say, “I am doing all this work at Clear View with not a single clinical visit to my credit for two years. Just stress and risk of exposure of my name to media and risk to my license."

Rienan said these emails detail Punjwani writing to his boss, complaining about having to sign legal documents and perform care without actually seeing patients. Rienan told Denver7 Investigates experts he has spoken to say this isn't allowed.

The public court filing also cites another email claiming Punjwani saw 1,413 patients in a single month. This was described in the document as an "enormous patient load."

Back in 2019, Denver7 Investigates spoke to a mental health technician who spent six months working at Clear View. This person corroborated what Punjwani’s emails described about his lack of in-person involvement at the facility.

“Never seen him. Allegedly lives in Florida,” they said.

Just a few days after Punjwani’s first email, where he admitted never seeing patients, he sent another email to his employer. Punjwani includes a link to Denver7’s website, directly referencing the investigative report on the death of 47-year-old Tibor Hetei at Clear View.

"Here's a new article... specifically inciting PRN (as needed) medication ordered by doctors that killed the patient…" Punjwani writes. "PRN (medication) probably ordered by me on call who never saw the patient!!!!!!"

“I look at this email and I think, gosh. That's a pretty powerful statement for him to make that I may have ordered the medications for Mr. Hetei that resulted in his death," Rienan said.

Tibor was Jenny Hetei's husband, and the father of her two children. Denver7 Investigates asked her if she ever expected to see this kind of information.

"No, not somebody admitting outright to most likely being responsible for the death of another human,” Jenny said.

Jenny believes the Punjwani emails show he knows he's responsible. She went on to say he must have written the emails “because his conscience is screaming at him.”

Jenny also shared a video diary her husband made four days before his death.

"I have pledged to take better care of myself… I hate that I can die anytime," Tibor said.

Hoping to get answers, Denver7 Investigates traveled to Colorado Springs to a facility known to employ Punjwani. The facility's director of compliance told Denver7 Investigates the doctor was not there, but said she would take a message to him. She stressed their facility was not affiliated with Clear View.

Jenny said while she’ll never be reunited with the father of her kids, there’s still action that she thinks should be taken.

“The powers that can enforce this kind of thing need to enforce it. (Punjwani) has a license to practice medicine in the state of Colorado. It needs to go away. He shouldn't have a license," she said.

Attorneys for Punjwani and the company he works for declined interview requests. Instead, they provided statements detailing they did not want to address the emails, and they’ll make their cases in court.

The civil case is now scheduled for trial in early 2023.