Wisconsin Medical Examining Board members and staff should receive more training, and the board could do more if had more staff, members said Wednesday in discussing the State Journal's "Doctor Discipline" series last month.

"There is something wrong when we have board members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate who are then introduced into a board without proper training," said Dr. Sheldon Wasserman, chairman of the board.

Investigators and attorneys should attend national training sessions to learn how other states discipline doctors, Wasserman said, but a state ban on travel by board staff has prevented that.

The state made a $1.25 million "lapse" budget cut last year from doctor license fees. Dr. Kenneth Simons, the board's vice chairman, said that made it harder for the board to work on policies, such as a proposal to require more training for newly licensed doctors.

"We can't do some of the things we'd like to do because we lack the staffing and because we lapsed those dollars that physicians paid for us to do those jobs," Simons said.

Wasserman, Simons and others on the 13-member board discussed the newspaper's three-day series at the board's regular monthly meeting.

The series showed that Wisconsin ranks near the bottom of states in serious disciplinary action against doctors largely because of the medical board's heavy use of reprimands instead of harsher penalties, including in cases that seriously harm or kill patients.

Boards in some other states — including Ohio, which ranks high in serious discipline — have larger budgets and more staff. Ohio's board has guidelines suggesting minimum and maximum penalties for various violations.

Wasserman said Wisconsin should study Ohio's guidelines.

"We don't have clear guidelines," he said. "Why do we have this nebulous system?"

Jeanette Lytle, attorney supervisor for the enforcement division of the state Department of Safety and Professional Services, which includes the medical board, told the board that staff and money are adequate.

"Resources aren't an issue when public protection is involved," Lytle said.

Lytle said the department plans to reestablish a board member training program, and she will consider sending attorneys to national training.

The travel ban has been lifted, said Jeff Weigand, a legislative liaison for the department.

Lytle told board members that they, not staff attorneys, have the final say in choosing what kind of discipline to give doctors.

But Dr. Sridhar Vasudevan, a board member, said just this week he thought a doctor should be suspended but the attorneys told him the doctor should be reprimanded.

"We had to kind of back down," he said.

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ghost
ghost

One of the problems here is that if you establish a standard practice and pattern of decisions in which you lightly discipline doctors for misconduct, it becomes legally tricky to break that pattern. The first few doctors that the board tries to crack down on will be able to argue in court that the discipline they are receiving is unfairly harsher than the discipline received by other doctors who committed the same offenses.

Fixing the problem will require adopting administrative code that establishes presumed minimum penalties for different types of offenses or introduces some change in the way penalities are determined so that disciplined doctors can't cry discrimination.

SunnyJ
SunnyJ

Disingenous and dishonest for this board to blame their own lack of initiative on state funding, staff or new board membes. Other professional boards have done their own work, investigated other states, managed their "practice acts" as operations manuals for their professiona AND worked on professional policing with a great deal less money and staff. If there was any real commitment to policing their profession, they'd go to the national training, contact other boards on their own and do the work. What is at fault here is the medical professions unwillingness to police their own. This board is a disgrace. If they had any integrity they'd all resign.

timbo
timbo

Blaming newby board members for your lack of leadership. Classy.