May 10, 2011

Bill To Tighten Doc Discipline Advances

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A bill that would make it easier for the Connecticut Medical Examining Board to discipline doctors who have faced license suspension or disciplinary action in other states has received legislative committee approval and is pending action by the General Assembly.

The new provision would allow the state medical board to “rely upon the findings and conclusions” of another state’s licensing board, when it comes to taking disciplinary action against medical professionals. Such reciprocal discipline is already routine in other states, but Connecticut officials have said they want a clear legislative directive to allow them to act quickly against practitioners whose licenses are revoked or suspended in other jurisdictions.

C-HIT reported in December that the state Department of Public Health and the medical examining board were allowing physicians whose licenses had been revoked,  suspended or reprimanded in other states to practice freely in Connecticut.

The review found that Connecticut often takes no action against doctors who are disciplined in nearby Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York, in contrast to medical boards in those other states, which are quick to impose their own reciprocal sanctions after Connecticut takes action.

In one case uncovered by C-HIT, the Rhode Island Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline had revoked a doctor’s license to practice medicine in January 2009, after he was accused of bilking “numerous” patients for Lasik surgery that was never performed. The Rhode Island board reported the revocation to the state of Connecticut, where the doctor, Steve Tu, also held a license.

But as Rhode Island pursued the disciplinary action, ultimately placing Tu on one year’s probation in October 2009 and ordering him to make restitution, Tu relocated his practice to Manchester, Conn., according to records.

A spokesman for the state health department has said that Connecticut takes a wide range of sanctions to address physician misconduct, but that reciprocal actions based on other states’ disciplinary sanctions were difficult and time-consuming.  Because of that, he said, the department was putting forward the legislative proposal for explicit statutory authority to rely on the disciplinary findings of another state.

The proposal is contained in a larger package of revisions to public health statutes. If adopted, it would become effective Oct. 1.

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