In a report published in May 2014 by the New York Public Interest Research Group Fund (“NYPIRG,” a nonpartisan, not-for-profit whose mission is to affect policy reforms while training New Yorkers to be citizen advocates) entitled “Questionable Doctors[:] Negligent Doctors And The Failure Of New York State To Notify Patients,” the authors analyzed the work of the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (“OPMC”) that is part of the New York State Department of Health, identifying what it deemed were “shortfalls” in New York’s system of disciplining its doctors, and discussing proposed reforms that could help protect patients from “questionable doctors.”
The OPMC is responsible for investigating complaints and taking disciplinary action if it is determined that a physician poses a threat to the public due to misconduct. Once a physician is formally charged with misconduct by the OPMC, the Board of Professional Medical Conduct (“Board”) is responsible for hearing disciplinary cases.
NYPIRG found that more than 77% of New York doctors who were disciplined for medical negligence by OPMC were nonetheless allowed to continue to practice medicine. Almost 60% of the disciplinary actions taken against doctors were based on disciplinary sanctions imposed by other states, the federal government, or by the courts — not by investigations that had been initiated by OPMC.
One possible explanation for the alleged lack of sufficient physician disciplinary actions for negligent doctors in New York is that there is a concern regarding a shortage of physicians who practice in New York if OPMC takes a more aggressive approach to doctor discipline (there are 102,554 physicians who are licensed to practice in New York; of those, 83,287 live in New York; in 2013, 5,223 New York medical licenses were issued to physicians, which was the largest annual number in nine years). However, that explanation falls short because the number of physicians in New York has increased by 36% during the past ten years while the overall population has grown by only about 2%.
The NYPIRG report may be somewhat dated because the New York State Department of Health has failed to update the OPMC annual report regarding doctor disciplinary actions since 2010, so more current statistics regarding New York’s physician disciplinary actions are unavailable to the public. For 2010, the Board imposed 307 final actions, which was the highest number since 2006 and resulted in the loss, suspension, or restriction of a doctor’s medical license in 59% of the cases. For 2010, there were 8,501 complaints that OPMC received, which was an increase of 24% from five years prior.
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