California Medical Board Ends Troubled Diversion Program
The Medical Board of California on Thursday voted to abolish its diversion program for physicians with substance abuse problems, citing deficiencies in how the program is administered, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Sevrens Lyons, San Jose Mercury News, 7/27).
The board seeks to phase out the drug and alcohol diversion program immediately, but no later than June 2008. The board also directed its staff to no longer admit physicians to the program and to develop a transition plan.
The program was faulted in a state audit in June for inconsistently monitoring participants, finding that more than one in four drug tests was not performed as randomly scheduled. As many as 400 physicians at a time participate in the program.
The audit also found that the program does not always require physicians to immediately stop practicing after testing positive for drugs or alcohol (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 7/27).
Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles), chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, is carrying a bill (SB 761) that would require the program to immediately remove a physician from practice if a drug test is positive (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 7/26).
Carlotta Gutierrez, spokesperson for Ridley-Thomas, said he believes that despite the medical board's vote, "the Legislature needs to do its own review" to determine whether the program should be reauthorized in June 2008, when funding is expected to end (Sacramento Bee, 7/27).