State med boards not punishing dangerous docs

State medical boards have failed to discipline 55 percent of the nation's doctors who had their clinical privileges revoked or restricted by the hospitals where they worked, according to a report released Tuesday by Public Citizen.

Of the 5,887 physicians who the state medical boards failed to discipline, 1,119 of them were disciplined by hospitals because of incompetence, negligence or malpractice; 605 were disciplined for substandard care; and 220 were identified as an immediate threat to health or safety, according to the study which examined data from the National Practitioner Data Bank from 1990 to 2009.

"Either state medical boards are receiving this disturbing information from hospitals but not acting upon it, or much less likely, they are not receiving the information at all," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group and overseer of the study. "Something is broken and needs to be fixed."

In Washington, D.C., the District Board of Medicine failed to punish 60 percent of the doctors whose hospitals had reported them to the national data bank during the 20-year period, notes the Washington Post. New Jersey failed to discipline 57 percent of dangerous doctors, one of whom had eight hospital actions against his clinical privileges, notes NorthJersey.com.

The lack of disciplinary action against physicians with serious medical practice problems hinders public safety. Therefore, Public Citizen is urging Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to have the agency's inspector general investigate state medical boards. Public Citizen also is notifying the 33 medical boards that have had the worst records in punishing these doctors.

For more:
- read the Washington Post article
- read the NorthJersey.com article
- here's the Public Citizen press release

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