Nevada Lawmakers Review Medical Examiners' Panel

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Nevada lawmakers were told Wednesday the state panel charged with protecting residents from incompetent doctors is taking new steps to keep the public informed of its efforts.

Attorney Keith Lee, representing the state Board of Medical Examiners, told the Legislative Commission that the steps include an update of the board's Web site so that people can get the names of any disciplined doctors.

Lee also said anyone who files a complaint with the board will get a written response and will be advised of upcoming hearings involving the complaint. He added that other changes are in the works, as a result of a recent audit and concerns raised by lawmakers last year.

The examiners board also was the focus of a lengthy Reno Gazette-Journal investigative report that quoted critics as saying the board goes easy in disciplining doctors, doesn't aggressively investigate malpractice allegations, doesn't follow up when numerous lawsuits are filed against a doctor and does a poor job of communicating with the public, doctors and the Legislature.

Dr. Ed Kingsley, head of the Clark County Medical Society, mentioned the Gazette-Journal report in saying the board hasn't adequately sanctioned or disciplined some of "the very few physicians" who cause problems.

But Kingsley also said the audit was off base in saying that some Nevada hospitals aren't reacting to malpractice cases by taking away doctors' hospital privileges. He also said that while the board's records should be open to the public, those records shouldn't include unproven allegations.

Kingsley also said most malpractice claims against doctors are ultimately dismissed, and the board shouldn't be obligated to investigate every single claim - only the ones that actually result in damage awards.

Dr. Bruce Wilkin of Ely, who said he's facing unspecified malpractice charges brought by the board, said the panel shouldn't be allowed to "run roughshod" over the rights of doctors.

Wilkin said the charges deal with his prescribing of controlled pain relievers to some of his patients who have chronic pain. He said he's done nothing wrong and is willing to explain what he has done for his patients "for all the world to see."

But Wilkin also said he wouldn't accept a "death sentence" from the Board of Medical Examiners by just giving up his medical license.

The lawmakers also were told by Randall Edwards, chief deputy Reno city attorney, that his doctor had been treated in an unprofessional manner by the examiners' board during a review of his bid for Nevada licensing.

Edwards said the audit of the board failed to look into the methods utilized by the panel in its reviews of applicants, adding that was "a gaping, glaring omission."

The audit by the Federation of State Medical Boards found the panel "meets or exceeds its statutory responsibility" in regulating the profession. But it said hospitals aren't doing enough to report medical errors, and there have been "strained relations" between the board and the Nevada State Medical Association, which represents many doctors.