55% of Censured Docs Face No Licensing Action by State Medical Boards

Cheryl Clark, March 17, 2011

More than half of U.S. physicians whose negligence, malpractice, sexual abuse, fraud, or other behaviors result in censure by hospital peer review escape any state medical board licensing action, according to national health watchdog group, Public Citizen.

"One of two things is happening, and either is alarming," said Public Citizen director, Sidney Wolfe, MD, in a statement. "Either state medical boards are receiving this disturbing information from hospitals but not acting on it, or much less likely, they are not receiving the information at all. Something is broken and needs to be fixed."

Wolfe's group combed the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB) for the names of doctors whose hospitals had revoked or restricted their physician staff privileges and found 10,672 doctors between 1990 and 2009. Hospitals are required by law to report such sanctions to the NPDB when disciplinary action to revoke or limit staff privileges extends for more than 30 days, and to the state professional licensing agency.

Of these, 55% – 5,887 doctors – had no licensing action taken against them by their state medical boards.

The group sent its report along with a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius urging her to have the Office of Inspector General investigate state medical boards, "something it has not done since 1993," Wolfe wrote.

"State medical board licensure action against a physician, if warranted, provides a greater assurance than a hospital privilege action alone that the 105 million patients whose medical care is partly funded by HHS...would be better protected from questionable physicians," Wolfe's letter to Sebelius said.


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