Medical Board To Implement Changes Jan. 1 Intended To Strengthen Oversight of Physicians
The Medical Board of California will begin implementing 28 changes on Jan. 1 designed to increase funding to the board and strengthen efforts to discipline doctors, according to a report to be released Thursday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
A November 2004 report by attorney Julie Fellmeth of the Center for Public Interest Law found hundreds of administrative and legal problems and "woefully inadequate resources" that hindered the board's ability to effectively protect patients. Fellmeth's report contained 65 recommendations, the majority of which required legislation to be implemented. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Oct. 7 signed into law a bill by Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont) that would authorize some of the changes.
Changes that will be implemented under the new law will:
- Increase physician licensing fees by 30% to generate an additional $10 million annually;
- Establish a collaborative approach between the board and state attorney general's office to speed investigations;
- Penalize doctors by as much as $1,000 per day if they fail to provide patient records or other requested documents in the allotted 15 days;
- Require doctors to self-report civil judgments against them;
- Require physicians' defense attorneys to share expert-witness information with the board's lawyers 30 days prior to a hearing;
- Encourage more medically qualified people to testify as prosecution expert witnesses by increasing pay;
- Establish a system for disclosing misdemeanor convictions related to physicians' practices;
- Expand the board's program for doctors with substance abuse problems, under which physicians can continue practicing while being monitored. The program will be discontinued in two years if improvements are not made;
- Recommend that board investigators join the Attorney General's Office within the next couple of years; and
- Mandate a review of the requirement that doctors and HMOs report disciplinary action taken against physicians.