Auditor: State is hampered in protecting public from rogue doctors
June 7, 2007
• Says there’s inconsistent monitoring, inadequate oversight
• Public's safety at risk, says report
California’s physician diversion program does not always require a physician to immediately stop practicing medicine after testing positive for alcohol or a nonprescribed or prohibited drug, thus putting the public's safety at risk, says a report Thursday by state Auditor Elaine Howle.
That’s one of the problems Ms. Howle’s investigation has uncovered.
The physician diversion program is designed to rehabilitate physicians impaired by substance abuse or by mental health disorders.
Other problems found by the audit include:
• The diversion program does not adequately ensure that it receives required monitoring reports from its participants' treatment providers and work-site monitors.
• The diversion program has reduced the amount of time it takes to bring new participants into the program and begin drug testing, but the timeliness of testing falls short of its goal.
• Twenty-six percent of drug tests in June and October 2006 were not performed as randomly scheduled.
• The diversion program's current process for reconciling its scheduled drug tests with the actual drug tests performed needs to be improved.
• The diversion program has not been formally evaluating its collectors, group facilitators, and diversion evaluation committee members to determine how well they are meeting program standards.
• The medical board has not provided consistently effective oversight of the diversion program.
Among other things, the report recommends that practicing physicians should be immediately removed from work when they test positive for drugs.
The Medical Board of California, which administers the physician diversion program, agrees with each recommendation and says it’s already made changes in response to the audit, Ms. Howle says.