California Medical Board Falls Short in Disciplining Physicians
The Medical Board of California seldom disciplines physicians or revokes their medical licenses, and its enforcement time often exceeds state standards, the AP/Ventura County Star reports.
Out of the 6,539 complaints that the board received in fiscal year 2009, regulators issued 276 formal charges against physicians, according to the board's latest annual report. Less than 2% of the complaints led to the loss of medical licenses, the report found.
According to the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, California ranks 43rd among states in taking serious disciplinary action against doctors.
Although state law calls for the board to complete investigations within in six months of receiving a complaint, the process often takes twice as long. The state does not impose a penalty for missing the deadline.
On average, the board takes about one year to complete an investigation and an additional 18 months to resolve a complaint. Appeals proceedings often delay the process.
Julie Fellmeth -- administrative director of the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego -- said poor communication between medical board investigators and prosecutors in the attorney general's office have contributed to enforcement delays. Fellmeth previously served as the state-appointed attorney tasked with monitoring the board's investigation process.
Candis Cohen -- a spokesperson for the medical board who recently retired -- said investigators are required to collect a significant burden of proof to revoke a doctor's license, which makes prosecutions difficult. CohenÂ added that the board is prioritizing efforts to accelerate its enforcement process.
The Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the medical board, is undertaking new efforts to speed up the board's enforcement process. State officials aim to reduce the average complaint completion time from 878 days to 540 days by 2013.
Paul Riches, DCA's first deputy director of enforcement and compliance, said the agency plans to undertake a $12 million computer system upgrade that could help streamline investigations.
WhenÂ its hiring freeze ends, Riches said DCA plans to add 20 new staff positions to assist with training for new and current investigators (Mohajer, AP/Ventura County Star, 11/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.