MEDICAL BOARDS DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS 7-1 through 12-31-2001

 

On February 11, 2002 the PA Department of State, Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs released disciplinary action data for The State Board of Medicine, The State Board of Osteopathic Medicine, and other State Boards for the period July 1 through December 31, 2001. Notably absent is data for the period April 1 through June 30, 2001. The previous release covered January 1 through March 31, 2001. With telephone inquiry I was told there had been personnel changes in the department responsible for posting such information to the PA DOS web page, and remaining personnel thought it unlikely the first quarter 2001 data was recoverable.

PA State Board of Medicine The Medical Board reported 63 disciplinary actions taken against medical doctors (51), other health care professionals (9), and unlicensed practitioners (3). Of the total, 40 or 63 percent of the disciplinary actions were the result of actions originating in another state. Of the 40, 39 of the recipients had out of state addresses. Of the remaining disciplinary actions, 8 involved no/improper license or improper certification, and 4 were based on criminal charges. There were 2 actions in which negligence was referenced in conjunction with improper dispensing of controlled substances. There appear to be no disciplinary actions taken against a PA based MD on primary charges of malpractice, negligence, or incompetence.

Interestingly, one case described a disciplinary action in which the primary charge was in regard to a doctor's conduct in creating false medical records to support billing Medicare and other insurance carriers for services rendered (Docket NO. 0294-49-00, File No. 98-49-03908). The doctor's license was placed on active suspension for three months. In my mother's case it appears Dr. Barton has altered her medical records (who else could have written the phony referral - see section titled "MEDICAL RECORDS") after acknowledging but ignoring her symptoms for a year, resulting in her death. However, not only was he not disciplined as a result, he was never even questioned, as the DOS Legal Office would not conduct a hearing. The difference apparently has everything to do with who does the complaining. This doctor's alleged alterations were probably discovered as a result of review of Medicare or other insurance carrier's payments. Medicare and insurance companies have enough political power to be heard. However, individuals such as myself do not have the political power (or deep pockets) to access PA Department of State Medical Board remedies.

Also interesting is the fact that this doctor was originally placed on active suspension for nine months by the Hearing Examiner (Prothonotary), only to have his sentence reduced on appeal to the PA State Board of Medicine. The implications of allowing the "Board" to override actions by the hearing examiner imply there is a direct relationship between politics and justice within the Department of State since "Board" members are political appointees of the Governor. Under those conditions, any Hearing Examiner soon learns the limits of his/her authority.

Summary to Date With the addition of the most recent BPOA Disciplinary Actions Report covering July 1 through December 31, 2001, there is 47 months of Medical Board disciplinary action data now available on the web. Though not contiguous, the data spans a period from January 28, 1997 (Board of Medicine Winter 98/99 Report) through December 31, 2001. In that time the PA State Board of Medicine has taken 361 disciplinary actions against medical professionals, of which 178 or 49.3% originated in other states. In the vast majority of those out-of-state cases, the individuals subject to the disciplinary actions both lived and practiced outside of Pennsylvania. To date I have not found a single case in which the Ridge/Schweiker Administration has taken a disciplinary action against an MD in private practice in this state on primary charges of malpractice, medical negligence, or incompetence, the greatest threat to the public health and safety.

 

PA State Board of Osteopathic Medicine The Osteopathic Board reported 29 disciplinary actions of which 5 originated out-of-state. Of those, 4 respondents had out-of-state addresses. There were 18 disciplinary actions based on failure to complete educational requirements. Of those, 5 respondents had out-of -state addresses. I found no examples in which an osteopathic physician was disciplined based on primary charges of malpractice, medical negligence, or incompetence.

Summary to Date With the addition of the most recent BPOA Disciplinary Actions Report covering July 1 through December 31, 2001, there is 56 months of Osteopathic Medical Board disciplinary action data now available on the web. Though not contiguous, the data spans a period from January 10, 1997 (Board of Osteopathic Medicine Spring 1999 Report) through December 31, 2001. In that time the PA State Board of Osteopathic Medicine has taken 109 disciplinary actions against medical professionals, of which 44 or 40.4% originated in other states. Of that number, 36 respondents had out-of-state addresses. In addition respondents in 5 disciplinary actions based on failure to complete educational requirements had out-of state addresses. To date I have found only 2 potential cases in which the Ridge/Schweiker Administration has taken disciplinary action against an Osteopathic physician in private practice based on primary charges of malpractice, medical negligence, or incompetence. I use the term "potential" here because while the judication documents support this possibility, I do not know if there might be political pressure behind the actions. With so few examples they appear to be anomalous. There was a third case, which I dismissed because the doctor was involved in a politically high profile situation at Polk Center, a state-operated facility. The remaining 2 cases may have political overtones as well, but that information is not in the judication documents. My discovery of the Polk Center connection was accidental.

 

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