State medical board under fire for backlog of complaints

The Maryland Board of Physicians is under fire following a legislative audit that revealed the agency's inaction on disciplining physicians, the Baltimore Sun reports. In addition to a backlog of hundreds of complaints, the state medical board does not have complete records and lacks transparency, sometimes violating open meeting laws, according to the article.

The board, which provides oversight of more than 43,000 medical professionals, handled nearly 1,730 complaints in fiscal year 2011, including 739 from the previous year. By the end of the year, the state medical board closed about 900, leaving 800 cases pending. It took 164 formal actions, more than in other years, according to the article.

Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene secretary, said the findings are "very concerning. It's critical that the board work better for both patients and doctors."

Further, an Examiner editorial yesterday questioned the medical board's competence.

"In 2003, the Maryland Legislature amended the Board's structure increasing the number of members from 15 to 21, with 40% of its membership non-physician," Dr. Mark Davis, president of Healthnets Review Services, wrote. "By diluting the competence of this administrative authority its expertise to review complex medical issues was brought to new lows."

Maryland takes 2.55 disciplinary actions for every 1,000 physicians, whereas the national rate is near three actions per 1,000 physicians, according to a Public Citizen report earlier this year.

The watchdog group recommends boards be independent from state medical societies and other parts of the state government so they can create their own budgets and regulations to effectively ensure patient protection and quality care.

For more information:
- read the Baltimore Sun article
- here's the Examiner editorial

Related Articles
State boards lax on abusive healthcare workers
Medical board lacks resources to punish dangerous docs
Watchdog group ranks the best, worst states for disciplining doctors
States may publish more doctor disciplinary records
Doctor found guilty in bomb attack on state medical board chairman