Connecticut a “Safe Haven” for Doctors Disciplined Elsewhere?

Thursday January 27, 2011

What do you know about your doctor? Beyond impressive looking diplomas hanging on the wall of their office, do you really have any idea if your doctor has ever had a formal complaint filed against him or her, has been disciplined for any past actions or been sued for medical malpractice?

Connecticut’s Health I-Team recently released an article detailing several instances of doctors who had been sanctioned in other states, but were able to continue practicing without restriction in Connecticut.

In 2009, Connecticut took disciplinary action against 55 of its 16,557 physicians. According to the Federation of State Medical Board’s national report, that is only .33 percent. And only 28 of those cases resulted in an actual loss or suspension of a physician’s license. If this number appears low, it’s probably because it is. According to the Federation’s report, Connecticut’s disciplinary average is far lower than many other states.

Challenges for the Connecticut Medical Examining Board

Each month, nine physicians, a physician’s assistant and five public members meet as the Medical Examining Board to handle disciplinary hearings. They hear matters that the Department of Public Health (DPH) has deemed as necessary needing disciplinary action. The DPH notes that even though not all physicians suspected of misconduct have disciplinary hearings, Connecticut does take a “wide range” of sanctions against allegedly misbehaving or negligent doctors by sending warnings and charging fines.

Connecticut’s Medical Examining Board has taken many actions against doctors based on disciplinary actions taken in order states, but, according to a DPH spokesman, those actions are time-consuming and burdensome under existing state regulations. Connecticut has to have its own, separate hearing on each matter and does not simply deem another state’s disciplinary action “as true.” As a result, some physicians are able to continue practicing without restrictions despite being sanctioned in other states.

The DPH has proposed a change to the state legislature, allowing Connecticut to have explicit authority to adopt the findings of other state’s disciplinary actions, rather than having to re-examine each case on an individual basis.

For a matter of patient safety, it is important that patients are able to find out if their doctor has been suspended from practicing medicine or disciplined in another state. In most states, looking up your doctor license on the state’s medical examining board site will allow you to see past penalties, but these may not always include out-of-state actions. Other websites, such as those created by independent healthcare rating companies such as HealthGrades, may allow patients to view a larger picture of their doctor’s history – but those, too, as with any content on the internet, should be viewed with caution.

Source: Disciplined Docs Practice Freely In State

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