Would Require Public Members Represent Advocacy Groups, Speed up Deliberations on Complaints
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg which would make various changes to the State Board of Medical Examiners, including specifying that public members must represent the advocacy community, establishing term limits for members and setting specific timelines for investigations to be undertaken, was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today.
“The State Board of Medical Examiners is charged with overseeing and maintaining the safety of our State’s health care system, and disciplining doctors who do not follow the rules or endanger patients,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen, and Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Health Committee. “This is a public entity that has to look out for the public’s best interests, not a social club of doctors looking out for their own. These reform measures will make the board more responsive and accountable to the public.”
The bill, S-2683, would require that the three public members sitting on the State Board of Medical Examiners include one person who represents a senior citizen advocacy group, one who represents a child advocacy group, and one who represents a consumer advocacy group. Under the bill, all members on the 21-member board would be subject to a limitation of no more than two consecutive three-year terms of office.
“By instituting term limits and giving a voice to the advocacy community, we can make sure that members on the Board of Medical Examiners don’t get too comfortable and complacent in their jobs,” said Senator Weinberg. “The board has a serious responsibility to monitor the State’s health care system, and take action against health care professionals who are not living up to the standards of the profession. Having board members who might be insulated from the issues, either because they’re out-of-touch with the needs of the people or have served for years in hold-over status, does not benefit our State’s health care consumers.”
The bill would also require that the Medical Practitioner Review Panel of the board investigate, within 30 days, any notices or complaints that the panel receives from in-State health care facilities or health maintenance organizations regarding a licensee. The board would, within 30 days, be required to investigate any information provided by a physician regarding out-of-state actions taken against the physician which would impact on their license or ability to practice medicine, and obtain any additional information needed to determine whether or not to initiate disciplinary action against the physician. Finally, physicians would be required to notify the board within 10 days of any action taken against them out-of-state, any pending or final action by a criminal authority for violations of the law, or any arrest or conviction for a criminal or quasi-criminal offense pursuant to the law.
“In the past, investigations have languished due to the vague nature of the law in terms of setting deadlines for board action,” said Senator Weinberg. “If a doctor has done something to affect their ability to practice medicine, we need swift and decisive turnaround on board investigations, not prolonged delay. This bill spells out appropriate deadlines for action, and ensures that the board is on top of complaints, both in-state and out-of-state, against health care professionals in New Jersey.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.