- Associated Press - Friday, March 14, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - A tightening of procedures used by Arizona regulators who license doctors to practice medicine in the state has resulted in a backlog of hundreds of applications.

Processing that took an average of 11 days a year ago now takes an average of 61 days, producing a backlog of more than 700 applications, The Arizona Republic (http://bit.ly/1gqa6mC ) reported.

The longer wait times result from new Arizona Medical Board policies that require by-the-book checks of applications, including each applicant’s credentials.

The board revamped its licensing procedures after the state Auditor General’s Office reported last year that applications weren’t receiving all the scrutiny required by state law.

The resulting uproar led to several staff changes, including the dismissal of then-Executive Director Lisa Wynn.

Now, however, criticism is aimed at the longer processing times.

“It really is a problem that needs to be fixed quickly,” said Jay Conyers, CEO and executive director of the Maricopa County Medical Society, a doctors group. “We have an obvious physician shortage. If physicians are looking at coming to Arizona versus another state, this may make us a second or third choice.”

Patricia McSorley, the state board’s interim executive director, said the agency needs to obey the law and making required checks.

“We’re doing everything possible to move licensing along,” she said.

Dr. William Thrift, a Prescott physician and former Medical Board member, said Arizona needs to modernize its licensing system.

“We’re working with a new century, and they were still working for laws that were devised more than 20 years ago, before we had email and ways of electronically checking doctors,” Thrift said.