System Failure At The Office Of Professional Medical Conduct And Physician Discipline?

Laws, Medical Records

A new report entitled “System Failure” detailing a study conducted by the NYPIRG, the Center for Justice & Democracy, the Center for Medical Consumers and Consumers Union asserts that while the number of complaints against doctors has risen in recent years, the number of doctors sanctioned by the Office of Professional Medical Conduct and Physician Discipline has dropped dramatically. In fact, despite a growing number of complaints, the number of doctors sanctioned has dropped to the lowest point in 15 years. According to the report, in 2009, the Office sanctioned “292 out of New York’s 65,000 practicing physicians”. This is 25 percent less than three years ago. However, the number of complaints filed against doctors “rose to 9,000 up 18 percent from 2005”.

Does this new information indicate that there is a system failure at the Office of Professional Medical Conduct and Physician Discipline? It certainly looks that way to me. In 2008, the New York State Legislature gave the Office an increased power to investigate medical malpractice claims against physicians. Increased power should have yielded a larger number of physicians being sanctioned, not the other way around.

While it could be argued that more meritless complaints are being filed in recent years, this is unlikely. It has consistently been shown that many complaints filed in New York are well founded. In fact, between 2007 and 2009, New York had the second highest rate of serious sanctions of states with more than 40,000 physicians.

The Office should start their own investigation into this matter to ensure that negligent doctors are being sanctioned for their harmful and negligent acts, before we start to lose faith in their ability to do so.