Blog: Accreditation, probation and secrets in Puerto Rico

Like the medical research paper whose chief finding is that more research is needed, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education put Puerto Rico's San Juan Bautista School of Medicine on probation so its problems could be studied. And, after studying them, the LCME decided to keep the school on probation.

And, while on probation, it maintains its accreditation.

Why it remains on probation remains under wraps, so it's sort of a double-secret probation.

"We're not allowed to release any information," Dan Hunt, LCME secretary, told me.

"Accreditation is not guaranteed," he added. "Accreditation can be revoked."

The threat of accreditation revocation remains a common but rarely carried out threat in the healthcare industry, but it did happen to San Juan Bautista last June 13 after the school's affiliated medical center filed for bankruptcy in March 2011. It was decided that third-year medical students were not receiving enough clinical experience.

After some legal wrangling, it was ruled that the decision to withdraw accreditation was "based on a procedural error," and the school was put on probation until a survey team paid a visit—which it did, from Feb. 26-29 of this year.

Hunt told me they can not release the survey report—only the school can. He added that the only reason that previous materials were made public was because they were entered in as evidence from the prior legal proceedings.

The school didn't send me the report, though they did send a copy of the LCME's letter (PDF) informing the school that its probationary status was being maintained.

"After reviewing the report of the full survey team, and your letter dated May 14, 2012 containing the school's response to the survey team findings, the LCME voted to maintain the status of probation for the educational program leading to the MD degree at the San Juan Bautista School of Medicine," the letter stated. "A medical school on probation remains accredited, with all attendant rights and privileges. However, should the decision to impose probation become final, the program must notify all enrolled students, all students accepted for enrollment and those seeking enrollment of its accreditation status."

Aside from that announcement, however, the letter is pretty much boilerplate, and few details specific to the probation status are revealed.

On the school's website, Dr. Yocasta Brugal, the school's president and dean, has a message promising better days ahead.

"We reaffirm our commitment to quality in medical education and look forward for SJBSM to become an academic medical center of excellence in the central region of Puerto Rico with the support and collaboration of all the academic community," she writes.

Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks.