Distaste for Their Own Medicine

Medical board officials fall short when disciplining themselves

Krishna says there's no conflict of interest because he left the room while the other board members reviewed the case. An independent medical consultant presented his findings to BOMEX, and then the members voted to dismiss.

"When I came back, I was not aware of what happened in that case until I got a letter from the board," Krishna says. "To this day, I am not aware of who that independent expert was."

That still doesn't change the fact that, in cases like Keen's and Krishna's, BOMEX's investigators and medical consultants are asked to evaluate the conduct of their bosses.

Keen, however, sees no alternative.
"I really don't know where else you would send them [complaints against board members]," he says.

There is no provision in state law to send these cases to outside consultants, Keen says. And Claudia Foutz, BOMEX's recently hired executive director, says she doesn't know of any state medical board that has a way to avoid voting on its own members.

Foutz says that if the disciplinary process is working properly, it shouldn't make a difference who's before the board. "It's the system that prevails, not the personality," she says.

But BOMEX's system has serious problems. The board currently has a backlog of more than 1,100 cases, and takes more than 16 months, on average, to resolve complaints. Many of the most serious complaints, which could mean suspension or revocation of a doctor's license, are stuck waiting for BOMEX to schedule hearings. In addition, the agency recently has lost key staff members.

Krishna says the board's process prevents conflicts of interest in cases against BOMEX's physician members. "I think we should leave the room. That's the right thing to do," he says.

That's not good enough for Mary Nixon.
"It's doctors that are judging these things about other doctors," Mary Nixon says. "They're good old boys."

Read more New Times' coverage of BOMEX

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