California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Audit Finds Faults in Physician Diversion Program

The California State Auditor earlier this month released an audit that uncovered deficiencies in a diversion program for physicians with substance abuse problems, the Sacramento Bee reports.

The drug and alcohol diversion program is administered by the Medical Board of California. The program is funded by physician fees and treats up to 400 physicians at a time.

The audit found that the program inconsistently monitors participants, with more than one in four drug tests not performed as randomly scheduled.

The audit did not find sufficient assurances that the program is receiving reports from treatment providers and work-site monitors, as well as meeting-verification cards.

Julie Fellmeth, administrative director of the Center for Public Interest Law at UC-San Diego, said she was "horrified" the program does not comply with its own policy of immediately removing a physician who tests positive in a drug test.

According to the audit, the program removed from practice only three physicians of the 13 who were required to be removed upon discovery of a relapse.

Legislation

Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles), chair of the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee, is the author of a bill (SB 761) that would require the program to immediately remove a physician from practice if a urine test is positive.

The measure also would call on the board to adopt regulations ensuring the program receives required monitoring and treatment reports.

Ridley-Thomas has threatened to discontinue the program if its problems are not resolved (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 6/17).

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