Doctor misbehavior—past and present—remained in the news all year, as new misdeeds made headlines and the legal consequences of past misconduct played out in the nation's courts and state medical boards.
The year in bad doctors
The Federation of State Medical Boards found that 4.5% more medical licenses were taken away last year, but fewer total disciplinary actions were taken against physicians. The annual FSMB report, which tabulates the previous year's license revocations and suspensions along with orders of probation and letters of reprimand, says 5,652 disciplinary actions were taken last year, compared with 5,721 the year before.
In the Public Citizen Health Research Group's ranking of the most-effective state medical boards (which is calculated by using a three-year average of FSMB data) Louisiana finished on top—breaking Alaska’s four-year streak at No. 1. Minnesota’s streak as finishing at the bottom, however, extended into its third year.
Florida, the largest state among the bottom dwellers, finished 45th after two years at 44th. In one glaring example of Florida’s inactivity, Dr. Rene De Los Rios was found guilty for his role in a $23 million Medicare fraud. But, according to the Florida Health Department website at the time, his license was "clear and active," and there were no complaints, criminal charges or disciplinary actions filed against him. That said, Florida appears to have stepped up its game, and I predict that they will finish much higher next year.
The furor really hasn't died down over HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration's decision to remove from the Web its National Practitioner Data Bank public-use file of physician disciplinary statistics. That occurred after a Kansas City Star reporter was able to connect the de-identified dots in the public file to court records and identify a physician by name. New research by the Star has uncovered how the identity of a physician whose license has been revoked or suspended in 20 states and the District of Columbia and whose membership in two medical professional societies was rescinded is being kept from the public.
In Texas, the name of Dr. Rolando Arafiles Jr. was in the news again after he surrendered his medical license, was sentenced to 60 days in jail and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine after pleading guilty to misusing official information to retaliate against two nurses who sent an anonymous complaint about him to the Texas Medical Board in 2009. In related cases, Winkler County Memorial Hospital administrator Stan Wiley, County Sheriff Robert Roberts and County prosecutor Scott Tidwell were also found guilty. Tidwell is appealing his case.
In a notable case in Maryland, the state's Board of Physicians revoked the medical license of Dr. Mark Midei, who was accused of exaggerating his patients' artery blockages to justify cardiac stents. The allegations were among several issues resolved in a $22 million False Claims Act settlement paid last year by St. Joseph Medical Center, Towson, Md., where Midei was employed from 2008 to 2009.
Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks.
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