Nevada Doctors Alarmed By Talk Of Tests

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A proposal to test doctors for proficiency won't improve patient care and will discourage doctors from coming to Nevada, physicians have told the state Board of Medical Examiners.

"The small world of medicine is aware and alarmed by the direction Nevada is going," said Larry Matheis, executive director of the Nevada State Medical Association.

"We don't need additional perception that will discourage physicians from coming here," he said Thursday.

Nevada does not have "a problem with lots of incompetent doctors out there," Donald Baepler, secretary and treasurer of the Board of Medical Examiners, said.

Instead, he told a group of about 30 doctors, the board is responding to concerns from legislators.

Talk about a proficiency test first started in 2002's special session, when legislators met to address the rising costs of medical malpractice suits.

Baepler said many states are looking to screen doctors through proficiency tests, and it's better for the board - not the Legislature - to set proficiency requirements.

The proposal, which could be passed as early as March, would require doctors to prove their proficiency every 10 years starting in July, 2007.

But doctors also would have several ways of avoiding the proficiency exams, including holding specialty certification from medical boards, maintaining hospital privileges, undergoing a peer review or taking a medical licensing exam.

Several doctors said they were upset that the proficiency exam requirements were being driven by politics. Very few of the thousands of doctors certified in Nevada are punished for incompetence, said Ed Kingsley, president of the Clark County Medical Society.