North Carolina board claims boost in doctor discipline
■ The medical board has been criticized in the past for doing a poor job.
By Damon Adams — Posted March 8, 2004
North Carolina Medical Board officials said an expanded staff and an enhanced board structure have improved the board's ability to investigate and discipline physicians.
In 2003, the board disciplined 80 physicians, 22 more than in 2002, board officials said. License revocations, suspensions and consent orders were up from 2002. In 1998, the board disciplined 66 physicians.
"It's been a dramatic increase over 2002, and it's higher than it has been in years," said board spokesman Dale Breaden.
The board has been criticized in the past by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen for doing a poor job of disciplining doctors.
But in 2001, the board increased licensing fees charged to doctors. The additional funding helped pay for two new lawyers to investigate complaints. Legislation in 2003 made changes to disciplinary proceedings, and other measures were taken to refine how the board operates. Last summer, the board renovated its office in Raleigh, allowing the board to better use its space. The computer system was also improved.
"We have had an increase in resources the past year or two. All have contributed to the board's ability to do its work better and faster," Breaden said.
According to board figures, 21 physicians were suspended in 2003, up from 11 in 2002. Two physicians had their licenses revoked in 2002 while seven had revocations in 2003. In an effort to keep doctors from getting into trouble that would warrant disciplinary action, the board sent warning letters to more physicians in 2003.
Despite the increases, board executive director David Henderson cautioned that disciplinary actions may rise and fall in cycles, depending on the circumstances of cases. But, he said in a statement, "That does not lessen the importance or significance of these numbers."