Profession

States boosting doctor oversight

A New Jersey bill aims to bring quicker reviews of complaints against physicians; a South Dakota bill toughens discipline standards.

By Damon Adams — Posted Feb. 23, 2004

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Legislators in New Jersey and South Dakota have introduced bills that, if passed, could change how their state medical boards police physicians.

A bill sponsored by New Jersey Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg would establish a health care professional regulation study commission to develop ways to bolster oversight of physicians by the State Board of Medical Examiners.

"Among the legislators, the feeling is [the board] has not done an outstanding job," said Weinberg, adding that 6% of the state's physicians are responsible for 60% of medical malpractice lawsuits.

The bill, introduced in January, would add two more public members to the board, making five total public members. The board would be required to submit an annual report to legislators that compiles complaints against physicians.

The bill also dictates how the board would handle complaints.

Under the proposal, the board would have to begin an investigation within 30 days of receiving a complaint. Once the review is completed, the agency would notify facilities where the investigated physician works and third-party payers. The parties would be notified of the investigation regardless of whether the board took action.

A second bill calls for the board to suspend the license of any physician whose license has been revoked in another state. A hearing would have to be conducted within 30 days of serving notice.

Mark Olesnicky, MD, president of the Medical Society of New Jersey, said the society supports legislation to crack down on bad physicians. But he said the board needs the proper resources to do its job.

"The bill [enlarging the board] failed to provide funding to increase staffing. The bark is there, but there is no bite," said Dr. Olesnicky, an internist.

In South Dakota, a bill has been introduced to change the standard by which physicians are disciplined by the Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners. The legislation would change the standard of proof from "gross" to "professional" incompetence.

"It's a lesser standard that would have to be proved than the current statute, " said Paul Jensen, executive secretary of the medical board, "The main intent of the bill is to give the board more flexibility in policing the physicians in South Dakota."

The South Dakota State Medical Assn. supports the proposal.

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