The Oklahoman Editorial Board calls for changes to troubled OK State Medical Board

Recently,  he editorial Board of The Oklahoman weighed in on another of Oklahoma’s problematic government agencies:  The Oklahoma State Medical Board.    And, it wasn’t pretty.

The Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision is Oklahoma’s State Medical board, an entity which functions to provide licenses to medical doctors and other related practitioners.  This board does not oversee osteopathic physicians (DO), chiropractic physicians (DC), Optometric Physicians (OD), dentists (DDS & DMD), nurses (RN, ARNP & LPN) and pharmacists (RPh, PharmD), which have their own licensing boards.    In addition to licensing, the OK State Medical Board is charged with the responsibility of protecting the public from the harm by the medical providers they license.  They do so by investigating complaints, conducting public hearings, and imposing discipline.  The discipline they render can include public reprimands, fines and license suspensions and revocations.  The fines they impose are sufficiently high that the agency can support itself with   It is also been revealed that they also conduct private and secret meetings and are an active instigators of medical malpractice lawsuits, some of which are filed by their own board members who are themselves attorneys.  This is an obvious conflict-of-interest that everyone can see, except, of course, the State Medical Board.

The agency not only licenses and provides oversight for  allopathic physicians (MD), but also perfusionists, podiatrists, alcohol & drug counselors, anesthesiologists, electrologists, physician assistants, radiology assistants, respiratory therapists,dietitians, athletic trainers, physical therapists, occupational therapists,  orthotists and prosthetists.  Its main focus, however,  is on  physicians.    They field complaints from disgruntled medical office staff members, angry patients, and even envious physician competitors, and begin investigations with the hope that a case can be made that leads in a payment to the Medical Board in the form of a fine.    This classic “Shakedown” seems to be the crucial fundraising activity.  Most if not all of the expenses of the Medical Board are met through these punitive fines.  The board characteristically fines the physicians they investigate for the costs of said investigations.   Fear of losing a license is  great leverage to make physicians acquiesce .

In the mission statement section of the Oklahoma State Medical Board website, it states that their mission is to “promote the Health, Safety and Well-being of the citizens of Oklahoma”.  Under the Medical Board’s Values and Behaviors section, they indicate  they “will perform” these responsibilities with “integrity and professionalism“.  They further state  that ” All public records are available for review and all board  meetings are open to the public“, but they stop short of defining what the word “public” means to them.   A series of embarrassing missteps including violation of due process, secret meetings,  collusion, and the intrusion of political influence by none other than Governor Rick Perry of Texas, has upended the value of the integrity and professionalism they mention.    These missteps  involve the case of a Tulsa neurosurgeon, Dr. Steven Anagnost, and have catapulted what  appears to be a renegade and reckless organization to the forefront of public attention again.    The bizarre case of The State Medical Board’s investigation and prosecution of Dr. Steven Anagnost has been recounted in a multi-part investigative piece called  “Unholy Trinity” published by THE RED DIRT REPORT.     The situation led the Oklahoman Editorial Board to publish a scathing review of the State Medical Board.

You can find this article here.   

After recounting the list of  questionable medical board activities and practices, which in the case of Dr. Anagnost, amounted to a combination a ‘witch hunt’ and  the use of medical board as an agent of vendetta by Dr. Anagnost’s competitors in the Tulsa area, the editorial paints the picture of the medical board as a purveyor of “unprecedented state-sponsored terrorism”, a phrase attributed to an Oklahoma congressman.

The conclusion of the editorial is one that many people in the public, including patients and doctors:  The Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure  and Supervision has not only fallen short of the standard and expectations, but integrity and professionism have seriously fallen by the wayside;  So much so, that this agency, like the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics which is experiencing its own re-organizational pains,  needs to be cleaned up, re-structured and reformed.   Legislative attempts which have been initiated to accomplish this goal  have, thus far, been unsuccessful.   Oklahoma State Attorney General Scott Pruitt has, however, recently taken control of the decisions of this and other state agencies in an effort to limit the legal exposure and consequences to the state  that some of their decisions have caused and can cause.

Ironically, This Board of Supervision  requires supervision.

A new board which can not only protect the public, but can also follow the law and obeys the rules of ethics is what is needed.  That should not be too much to ask.   A change in leadership and  getting rid of the board members and investigators (some of whom have already gone) may be the only way to salvage this organization and to restore its credibility.

 

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