Senate Passes Physicians’ Regulation Bill

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(Host) The Senate gave its approval on Friday to legislation that would give more information about doctor misconduct to the public.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The legislation makes some key changes in the way that doctors do business in Vermont. Currently, physicians are regulated by an independent Medical Practices Board. This bill transfers the oversight of doctors to the state Health Department. The legislation also expands the Board to include more non-medical members and it allows members of the public to learn more about complaints filed against doctors.

The most controversial provision of the bill would allow the Board to discipline a physician after one case of misconduct of specific behavior where a doctor has failed “to conform to essential standards of acceptable and prevailing practice.

Current law calls for discipline after one case of “gross misconduct,” which is a difficult legal standard, or multiple cases of regular misconduct. Chittenden Senator Jean Ankeney argued that the public would be better served by a lower threshold of misconduct ¿ one that mirrors existing standards for nurses:

(Ankeney) “It is time to intervene before there is gross or egregious practice, and that is the standard which guided this standard and is one the Medical Society decided was better. We would discipline physicians before a real tragedy happened.”

(Kinzel) Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin says the public has a right to know when a doctor has been charged with professional misconduct:

(Shumlin) “I think Vermonters will have more confidence in a health care system that we should already be proud of by having access to information about doctors when they need to have it.”

(Kinzel) A similar bill has already passed the House. Now, House members will have to decide if they want to support the Senate changes or ask for a conference committee to work on a compromise plan.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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