South Dakota board separates from medical society

The medical board is looking for office space and plans to relocate.

By Damon Adams — Posted Sept. 19, 2005

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The South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners has a new executive director, a move that severs its close ties with the state's medical association.

Margaret B. Hansen, a physician assistant, took over as the board's executive director Aug. 1 and manages the board's daily operations of licensing and disciplining about 6,900 health care practitioners, including 1,600 physicians. Previously, the same person served as administrator of the board and the South Dakota State Medical Assn. The two entities also have shared office space, staff and other resources.

Some lawmakers and the media criticized the close ties, seeing them as a conflict of interest.

In an investigation in 2004, the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls charged that the board's investigations and records were shielded from the public and the board was reluctant to act against physicians.

The newspaper found that North Dakota, a state that had nearly the same number of licensed physicians as South Dakota, disciplined doctors three times as often. Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen also blasted the board for being lax on disciplining doctors.

Physician leaders said growth of the medical association staff -- not criticism -- prompted the reorganization. "It should lay those things to rest. This has been a long time coming," said medical board President Robert L. Ferrell, MD, a semi-retired otolaryngologist in Spearfish, S.D.

Dr. Ferrell said the board and association would share some administrative services. But the two no longer will use the same attorneys, as they did in the past, and the medical board will have an office in a separate building, he said.

"I'm looking at office space right now," said Hansen, who was a physician assistant at the Allergy and Asthma Clinic in Sioux Falls and an assistant professor in the health sciences physician assistant studies program at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine.

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