He Performed Surgery in Romania, but Is He a Doctor?

He looked like a handsome doctor straight out of a TV series.

On his Facebook page, Dr. Matthew Mode promoted cosmetic procedures, including surgery, performed at a clinic in a wealthy part of the Romanian capital, Bucharest. He posed in blue scrubs with a broad smile and a syringe of Botox.

But the authorities in Romania said this week that he was not authorized to practice medicine there, and questions have been raised about whether he is really a doctor.

Oh, and his name isn’t Matthew Mode.

Romanian health authorities began looking into Matteo Politi — the name he used before calling himself Matthew Mode — after news reports that he had operated on at least one woman without proper credentials. Almost a year after he began practicing medicine in Bucharest, prosecutors there have opened a criminal investigation into his actions.

On Wednesday morning, Romanian border guards found him trying to leave the country on a train bound for Budapest, removed him and handed him over to the police.

He did receive an identification code as a health care provider, in the name of Matteo Politi, from Bucharest’s public health authority in March last year. But on Tuesday the agency apologized for issuing the code and said in a statement that it was investigating how that had happened.

That code alone should not have been enough for Mr. Politi, who had emigrated from Italy, to practice medicine in Romania. He also needed authorizations from the Ministry of Health and the Romanian College of Physicians; both the ministry and the college said he did not have those credentials, and that they had begun investigations.

He had good reason for not promoting himself as Matteo Politi, according to Italian news organizations. Under that name, they reported, he had been convicted in 2011 of posing falsely as a doctor in Italy, and had received a suspended prison sentence.

The story of his Romanian exploits first appeared this week in the popular tabloid Libertatea. Soon after, he took down his Facebook page.

“I’m not fleeing, I just prefer not to say where I am,” Mr. Politi said Tuesday in a telephone interview with an evening talk show on Antena 1, a Romanian television network

“From the moment I was recognized, with a lawyer’s help, I can call myself a doctor,” he said. “My degrees were recognized and validated.”

But it is was not clear what degrees he actually holds.

On Facebook, Mr. Politi boasted regularly of his medical skill. Recent posts included a picture of him in a suit with the caption, written in both English and Romanian, “#DrMatthewMode, a doctor you can trust!” Another one said, “It’s important to always choose the best doctor! (meaning #DrMatthewMode).”

But in a video posted recently to Facebook, he seemed more like a playboy than a serious doctor, giving a “V” sign with his fingers and clutching a roll of Romanian bank notes.

“So Friday night, surgery, working, ready for party,” Mr. Politi said in the video, in heavily accented English, flanked by a giggling female co-worker. The caption said, “Friday afternoon pre-surgery and crazy mood.”

In another video, a woman who appeared to be a patient thanked Dr. Matthew Mode for her new lips.

Monza Hospital, a private clinic in Bucharest, confirmed that a man named Matteo Politi operated on one female patient in December. But the consultations leading up to the surgery took place in another medical institution, a statement on the clinic’s website said on Tuesday.

“Monza Group declares itself the injured party in this case and has begun legal action against Matteo Politi,” the statement said.

Mr. Politi’s story has drawn attention to possible loopholes in Romania’s struggling health system, in which private hospitals play a growing role alongside the state-run network. The country’s health minister, Sorina Pintea, recently announced that there would be more checks on the private system after cases of malpractice came to light last year, and she noted that medical impostors existed in other countries.

Last year, British medical authorities announced a review of the credentials of some 3,000 foreign physicians who began practicing in Britain before 2003, when checks were less stringent. The review was prompted by the case of Zholia Alemi, 56, a medical-school dropout, who worked at medical facilities around Britain before a news investigation found that she had been practicing under false pretenses.

In Italy, a number of dental technicians have passed themselves off as dentists, but the profession has taken steps to address the problem, said Filippo Anelli, president of Italy’s federation of medical guilds. Cases of fake doctors, he said, are “extremely rare.”

Elisabetta Povoledo contributed reporting from Rome.

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