California Medical Board Taking Longer To Resolve Complaints
On average, it takes 934 days -- more than two years -- from the time a complaint is filed against a physician in California to the completion of a judicial review, according to the California Medical Board's annual report, the Los Angeles Times reports.
In fiscal year 1998-1999, that process took 722 days on average to complete.
In the medical board's most recent report, it details that it takes 488 days on average for the board and the attorney general's office to investigate the complaint, with an administrative judge's review of the case accounting for the remainder of the process' average 934-day span.
In many cases, physicians are allowed to continue practicing while the process continues, but California Medical Association spokesperson Ned Wigglesworth said state officials can ask a judge to suspend a doctor's license in extreme cases.
The amount of time it takes the board to resolve complaints has drawn criticism from patients and lawmakers, and a 2004 independent analysis of the medical board's disciplinary system found that "overall, the enforcement process takes too long to protect the public."
Debbie Nelson, an associate analyst for the medical board, said that staff vacancies and problems recruiting and retaining investigators have contributed to the increase in the amount of time it takes to resolve complaints.
In addition, Richard Fantozzi, president of the medical board, said that a medical license is legally considered property, requiring that specific steps be taken before a medical license can be revoked (Lin, Los Angeles Times, 3/17).