Losing Patients

Legislators want closer scrutiny of BOMEX, but the medical board will seek more secrecy

Not even the Arizona Medical Association, the state's physician lobby, goes as far as Foutz's proposal. ARMA supports a system where old dismissals of complaints are taken off a doctor's record if they have no other problems, ARMA lobbyist David Landrith says.

BOMEX ombudsman Eric Nickell maintains the idea could actually improve the agency. "We see it as a give and take," he says. "We'll give you a faster investigation . . . but we need to have the investigation kept secret until it comes before the board."

BOMEX isn't likely to find many friends with that point of view. Representative Sue Gerard, who chaired the hearing and defended Foutz at times, says she told agency staff there was no way the proposal would pass.

"I've also told them, there's no way it's going to fly in this legislature, because the legislature is angry about it and the public is angry about it," she says.

BOMEX has also discussed the proposals with Governor Jane Hull's staff. However, Stuart Goodman, a policy assistant to Hull, stresses that the governor only discussed the idea of keeping undercover investigations secret, not all investigations.

Foutz--who characterizes her committee appearance as a "bloodbath"--says there's a lot of work left to be done to clean up the mess she inherited.

"It's like I've bought a 1950s house. There's asbestos in the walls . . . [and] the electrical lines are shot," she says. "Unfortunately, I have to knock the walls down. But nobody can see that. All they can see is the dumpy little '50s house."

Legislators, however, warned Foutz they'll only wait so long for improvement. Gnant told the committee the old joke about the three envelopes left in his desk by the person he'd replaced. The first told him to blame his predecessor. The second, to reorganize. The third said, "Prepare three envelopes."

"You've opened two envelopes today," Gnant told Foutz. "I hope that we don't get to the point where you'll have to open the third."

You can check up on your doctor online--dismissals and all--at http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/webextra/bomex/index.html

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