State urged to tighten doctor discipline

The Ithaca Journal
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

ALBANY — The state needs to strengthen the disciplinary system for doctors, consumer groups said Tuesday as they released a report on physician oversight.

The number of physicians in the state and complaints against them have increased in recent years, but disciplinary actions have gone down, said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. The ranks of doctors practicing increased 28 percent from 1995 to 2007 and complaints went up 46 percent. But the number of disciplinary actions last year was the lowest since 1996.

The state Department of Health “really took its foot off the accelerator in terms of actions against doctors,” Horner said.

NYPIRG and other organizations said they support reforming the disciplinary system against physicians, something that was proposed by Gov. David Paterson and has support in the GOP-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled Assembly. NYPIRG, the Center for Medical Consumers, the Center for Justice & Democracy, the Consumers Union and the New York Statewide Senior Action Council released the report.

The legislation would:

* Require the Health Department's Office of Professional Medical Conduct to use medical-malpractice information to initiate investigations. (Malpractice cases are heard in civil court and do not involve the Office of Professional Medical Conduct.)

* Authorize the state health commissioner to disclose information to the public as needed about public-health threats discovered during a probe.

* Mandate that physicians update their online profiles with the state as a condition of renewing their licenses. The profiles — listed at — have information like education, hospital credentials, disciplinary actions and limited details about malpractice judgments and settlements.

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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