A recent article by the investigative Connecticut Health I-Team has blown the cover of several doctors and medical professionals, who were disciplined in other states but later moved to Connecticut and are currently practicing medicine here without restrictions. Physicians from New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and other states have relocated to Connecticut after facing accusations of medical malpractice, fraudulent practice of medicine (for writing prescriptions under another physician's name), sexual relationships with patients and other intentional and negligent misconduct in their home states.
Several medical professionals were profiled in the article. One physician's assistant from New York, was accused of the fraudulent practice of medicine after she wrote unauthorized prescriptions for Vicodin under a physician's name and gave the scrip to someone who was not a patient. Upon signing a consent order with the New York State Board for Medical Conduct, she agreed to censure, fines and three years of probation. She now sees patients in Connecticut.
According to the article, an emergency room physician was suspended for five years from the practice of medicine by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine for rendering inadequate medical care to four patients he saw in the emergency room. He now practices medicine in Connecticut without restrictions.
The article also profiled the case of a Rhode Island doctor who was barred from practicing medicine in Rhode Island for a year after the Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline found that he had sought payment from patients for numerous Lasik surgeries that he never preformed. The Board also ordered him to make restitution. His conduct was reported to the Connecticut medical board as he was also licensed here, but no limitations were placed on his practice in Connecticut.
The Connecticut Health I-Team reported that these three medical professionals are among a number of physicians disciplined in other states who have moved to Connecticut to practice medicine, and are allowed to treat patients without restrictions.
Connecticut Has Poor Record for Weeding Out Dangerous Doctors From Other States
The I-Team dug deeply into the statistics on doctors disciplined in other states who come to practice medicine in Connecticut. It found that Connecticut has a poor record for disciplining physicians. According to a report completed by Public Citizen Health Research Group, Connecticut is in the bottom four states (out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia) in the number of disciplinary actions it takes against doctors from 2007 to 2009.
Spokesman William Gerish for the Connecticut Department of Health told the I-Team that weak state laws are behind Connecticut's extremely low rates of doctor discipline. Gerish defended the state health department's lackluster efforts to restrict the practice of medicine by doctors disciplined out-of-state. He says that, currently, the Connecticut Department of Health has to re-investigate each physician discipline report it receives from another state to determine if the findings contained in the report are true. That duplicative step has bogged down the review of numerous physician discipline reports.
To remedy the delays and create a more efficient system, Gerish says that the state health department is asking the legislature for explicit authority to deem out-of-state physician disciplinary findings "as true" so that it can proceed with its own discipline in a timely fashion, if necessary. According to the article, other state health departments report that they already have this power.
The national Federation of State Medical Boards offers a service that alerts state health departments to physician discipline actions in other states so that disciplined doctors can be tracked from state to state. The FSMB already encourages states to consider other states' physician discipline actions as a "sufficient" basis to take disciplinary action against the doctor if he or she has moved into the state.
The I-Team also revealed the disparities in doctor discipline across states. Connecticut patients came out on the losing end of this comparison on many occasions. Frequently, doctors who were reprimanded, suspended, or had their licenses revoked in other states faced no discipline from the Connecticut state health department for the same conduct.
Medical Malpractice and Misconduct by Physicians Should Be Prevented
No patient should have to suffer medical malpractice because a doctor, with a record of malpractice, has been allowed to practice in Connecticut regardless of the danger posed as exposed in other states. The State of Connecticut does provide an electronic license look-up to determine if a medical professional (or other professional) is licensed in the state. The License Look-up provides brief information on the medical professional, location of practice and whether he or she maintains an active license.
The state health department also compiles summaries of physician and physician assistant disciplinary action, which it maintains for up to three years on its website before archiving the data. The summaries are not easily searchable, but a check of a doctor's last name in the search field may lead to surprising results.
Connecticut patients may want to confirm their doctors' good standing with the Connecticut Department of Health. If a patient feels that he or she has been the victim of medical malpractice, fraud or intentional misconduct by a Connecticut physician, the patient should contact an experienced Connecticut medical malpractice attorney to discuss the case.