The license of a Gig Harbor psychologist has been suspended months after a prostitute stole a laptop containing the private information of hundreds of patients, state health officials say.
According to the state Department of Health’s charges, Sunil Kakar, 46, compromised the personal health information of 652 clients he had obtained through two contracts with the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) when he left his personal laptop with a prostitute.
Department of Health case manager Tammy Kelley said Kakar had temporarily used the laptop as a form of payment to the woman before they went to an ATM on Feb. 4. Although Kakar initially told police the laptop was stolen while his car was unlocked, he eventually said the prostitute took it while he was at the ATM, according to the department’s “Statement of charges.”
Kakar did not report the theft to DSHS until Feb. 7, a violation of his contract with the agency, and did not report the incident to police until Feb. 14, the statement says.
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The same day Kakar notified police, detectives were able to recover the laptop, which the prostitute had pawned.
The Department of Health’s statement says that because of the theft and the investigation of Kakar’s practice, his clients had to find new providers, “in some cases requiring clients to repeatedly re-disclose events that were unpleasant or traumatic for them.” The clients’ eligibility for benefits and access to health care were also delayed.
“I am extremely sorry for this situation and understand it may cause concern, embarrassment and inconvenience,” Kakar said in a letter to his clients earlier this year, according to DSHS. “I try very hard to earn your trust, and that includes protecting sensitive information about you. I take client confidentiality very seriously.”
Kakar’s contracts with DSHS had been placed on inactive status on Jan. 8 because he had failed to complete evaluations for 14 clients, according to Department of Health records.
Kakar will not be able to practice with his psychology license until the violations of unprofessional conduct and failure to protect private information are resolved.
Kakar has the right to request a hearing to defend himself this month. If he fails to defend himself against the violations, he could be required to complete remedial education, face a temporary license suspension or revocation and/or payment of a fine of up to $5,000 for each violation.
Kakar previously had been investigated for other alleged incidents of unprofessional conduct.
The Department of Health says that while Kakar worked as a psychologist for the Department of Corrections in April 2011, he refused to leave an area where a prisoner was to be strip-searched. The statement also says he took food from a prisoner, then jumped on a counter and ate it.
Later that month, according to the statement, a relative admitted Kakar to a mental-health facility and Kakar was released with a recommendation for a chemical-dependency evaluation.
In July 2011, police arrested Kakar for alleged driving under the influence and marijuana possession, according to the Department of Health. The charges were reduced to negligent driving, second degree. Charging papers say he underwent inpatient treatment the next month and then an “extensive outpatient treatment program.”
The Department of Health decided that after his treatment, he could practice.
“We had sufficient reason to believe he was safe to practice at the time,” said Kelley.
Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.