- Associated Press - Monday, November 2, 2015

SAN DIEGO (AP) - The Medical Board of California has rejected a bid to require physicians tell patients when and why they are placed on probation.

The regulatory board, meeting in San Diego on Friday, turned down a Consumers Union request that doctors notify patients of probation when they call to make appointments and in a written notice that patients would sign.

The board said the requirements were too broad and might harm the relationship between patients and doctors who are on probation for minor offenses.

“I actually think it’s punitive,” said Dr. Randy Hawkins, a board member. “It will get in the way of patient care.”

About 500 of nearly 131,000 licensed physicians in the state were on probation as of late last month for offenses ranging from poor record-keeping to drug abuse or sexual misconduct, the Consumers Union has said, citing information obtained through a Public Records Act request.

Doctors who violate their terms of probation can have their medical licenses revoked.

Physicians currently must disclose their probation to hospitals and malpractice insurers. The Medical Board also may require doctors to notify their patients on a case-by-case basis.

The board also posts disciplinary information in searchable form on its website - including details of the probation - but Consumers Union argued that many patients find it difficult to access.

Marian Hollingsworth, an activist with the Consumer Union’s Safe Patient Project, told the medical board that she was horrified to discover some years ago that she had been referred to a doctor who was on probation for substance abuse and had once gone after a patient with a hatchet.

The board decided to set up a task force to gather more statistics on the probation system and work on ways of making the information easier to obtain by the public.

Consumers Union said it was pleased with the action.

“Californians deserve to know when their doctor is on probation for a serious offense that could put their health at risk,” Lisa McGiffert, manager of the Safe Patient Project, said in a statement Friday. “Today’s hearing made clear that the Medical Board is taking this issue seriously and understands that it needs to do more to ensure Californians aren’t left in the dark.”


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