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Is Drastic Overhaul Needed for Medical Board of California?

Lawmakers are currently considering drastic changes to the oversight of California’s doctors and medical facilities. They contend that the Medical Board of California has been ineffective in protecting patients by failing to discipline physician misconduct and neglecting oversight of outpatient surgical centers.

The Medical Board of California was created in 1975 to provide tougher physician oversight and discipline and counteract the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act’s limitations on medical malpractice lawsuits. Comprised of both physicians and public members, the board is tasked with protecting patients from dangerous doctors. However, it has largely failed to live up to expectations.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, Public Citizen found that the board failed to discipline more than 700 doctors who lost their privileges at California healthcare facilities, including 102 who had been found to pose an “immediate threat” to patients. As we have previously discussed on this San Diego Injury Blog, the board has specifically been criticized for failing to crack down on doctors who recklessly overprescribe painkillers.

“I’ve heard repeated stories of difficulty in sanctioning physicians. It’s cumbersome and takes a long period of time,” said Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles), who co-authored the proposal with Assemblyman Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park). “I don’t want anybody else to die.”

Given the board’s poor track record, legislators are considering dissolving the board under the state’s sunset laws and starting fresh on January 1 of next year. Under another proposal, the Medical Board of California’s investigatory authority would be reassigned to the attorney general’s office.