Dr. Efraim Gomez-Zapata advertised himself as a pioneer in laser liposuction in the Hispanic community — at a discount rate, no less.

But state health officials say the Stamford doctor's cut-rate surgeries came at a steep price.

Twice in two years, patients had to be rushed to the hospital after suffering complications from procedures Gomez-Zapata may not have been qualified to perform, state health officials allege in disciplinary records reviewed by The Courant. In one case, Gomez-Zapata may have injected spinal anesthesia into the wrong part of a woman's back, leaving her in respiratory arrest.

And although Gomez-Zapata had a valid medical license, he didn't have the license necessary to operate a surgical facility. Nor did he have the appropriate staff, equipment, office setup and hospital privileges required in case something went wrong during surgery, state health officials allege.

The state Department of Public Health is pursuing disciplinary charges against Gomez-Zapata, accusing him of lacking the proper qualifications to administer anesthesia or perform procedures such as liposuction, scar revision and tummy tucks.

He's also accused of failing to obtain appropriate consent from patients, not keeping proper records and operating a surgical facility without the necessary state licensing or licensed staff.

The department has also ordered him to stop operating an outpatient surgical facility, which he agreed to do.

Through his attorney, Gomez-Zapata, of Stamford, has denied the allegations. His lawyer, John J. Evans, wrote to regulators that many of the specific qualifications they say he lacks are not required by law, and that Gomez-Zapata received training in managing anesthesia and in plastic surgery, including a five-day seminar in Colombia with "the inventor of liposuction."

Evans wrote that the complications patients experienced were not the result of Gomez-Zapata's work, which he described as detailed and impeccable.

The state Medical Examining Board is scheduled to hold a hearing on Gomez- Zapata's case on Friday.

The following week, a civil trial is slated to begin in a separate malpractice complaint against Gomez-Zapata, filed by a woman who says he botched a scar-revision procedure that left her with even larger scars that cannot be corrected. Through his attorney, Gomez-Zapata has denied those allegations.

Medical Mishaps

State health officials began investigating Gomez-Zapata after receiving a report from Stamford Hospital about a 35-year-old woman who was taken by ambulance to the emergency room from Gomez-Zapata's office.

On July 30, 2007, the woman, identified in state records as "M.S.," went to Gomez-Zapata's Stamford medical office for surgery. Although Gomez-Zapata specializes in family medicine, M.S., a native of Colombia, went to him for an abdominal liposuction, one of the "aesthetic procedures" Gomez-Zapata advertises on his website.

Gomez-Zapata, who also uses the name "Efrain Gomez," attended medical school in Spain and has been licensed to practice medicine in Connecticut since 1987. In a deposition, he estimated that 70 percent of his patients speak Spanish or Portuguese, according to an attorney suing him for malpractice in a separate case.

In M.S.' case, trouble started before Gomez-Zapata could even begin the liposuction, state records show.

He gave M.S. the painkiller Nubain intravenously, the anxiety drug Alprazolam by mouth, and administered local anesthesia to her abdomen.

She began having a seizure.

Someone called 911. EMTs found M.S. lying on an air mattress on the exam table, with a person one described as a "terrified young girl" holding her down.

The first seizure lasted seven minutes. She had another seizure after that.