Report Recommending Competency tTsts For Doctors Rejected

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The state Board of Medical Examiners unanimously rejected its own report recommending competency examinations for doctors Friday, saying such tests would be redundant and could have a chilling effect on keeping and recruiting physicians.

"It would be premature to be doing it at this time," board President Dr. Cheryl Hug-English said. "I would really like to see us table it indefinitely until we hear from the Legislature that they would like us to go ahead with it."

Dr. Stephen K. Montoya, an obstetrician, said his profession requires recertification every 10 years and he goes through the process annually.

"This is a document in evolution," he said. "The time is just not right for this kind of document."

Montoya, who served on the committee that developed the policy, said he initially favored recertification, but came to believe it would discourage doctors from moving to Nevada.

Hug-English said Nevada already has one of the lowest numbers of physicians per capita in the nation and would be the only state to impose such a requirement.

The suggestion of proficiency tests surfaced in 2002's special session called for lawmakers to address the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance.

The proposal would require doctors to prove their competency every 10 years beginning in July 2007. Doctors could avoid the tests by holding special certification from medical boards, undergoing a peer review or taking a medical licensing exam.

"We have tried to please so many people with these regulations that we have diluted this thing," board member Dr. Robin Titus said. "I am concerned that if we pass it, it would not guarantee any kind of competency."

Hug-English said the governor's office and state Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, who served on the Legislature's Committee to Study Medical Malpractice, had urged the medical board not to pursue competency tests.

Board Secretary-Treasurer Donald Baepler, who chaired the committee that developed the document, reluctantly joined the unanimous vote, but cautioned that the state's doctors were missing an opportunity to police themselves.

He said powerful groups like pharmaceutical and insurance companies and the American Association of Retired People were lobbying Congress for federal legislation.

"If states are not proactive in pursuing this, other groups will step in," he said.

Baepler said he did not think Nevada had a problem of too many incompetent doctors.

"It's only a few physicians in the state who cause the problems," said Dr. Sidney Zimmet, who testified Friday.

"Giving physicians tests is not going to stop malpractice suits," he said. "It used to be that if a surgeon removed the wrong leg and was drunk, that was malpractice. Today, malpractice is just an opportunity by some people to make some easy money."