Weinberg – Medical Examiner Board Must Police Negligent Physicians

Hearing Highlights Lack of Disciplinary Action Against Unsafe Doctors, Need for More Resources to Review Cases

TRENTON – State Senator Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, the chairwoman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, issued the following statement regarding today’s hearing on the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners, including the board’s lack of disciplinary action against physicians who fail to meet safety or adequacy benchmarks, and the need for more resources to review cases of neglect, abuse or substandard medical care:

“New Jersey depends on our Board of Medical Examiners to ensure that the public health is protected and that physicians are held to a high standard of safety and professionalism. However, an independent review of the Board’s actions in recent times reveals a short-staffed agency which doesn’t necessarily pursue every allegation, even as hospitals and health care facilities are disciplining their own.

“Certainly, the Board of Medical Examiners should not be in the business of performing witch hunts against otherwise safe and competent doctors who might make an honest mistake which results in no harm to the patient. There’s no question that the provision of medical care can result in honest mistakes from time to time – doctors, after all, are only human.

“However, in cases when a patient is harmed as a result of a doctor’s error or negligence, or a pattern of neglect and abuse arises, the Board of Medical Examiners needs to step in and take action. Whether that means license suspension, revocation, restricted privileges or simply requiring a doctor to attend a refresher course on the best practices for medical care, the Board has a responsibility to act.

“Today we heard about the many problems facing the Board, including reduced staff and investigatory resources. We need to make sure that the Board has the tools it needs to pursue cases of suspected wrongdoing, and to make sure doctors and other health care professionals are held to the highest professional standards.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure that the Board of Medical Examiners has the resources and the personnel to adequately perform its mission of protecting patient safety in the Garden State. We need a State Board that has the tools, the expertise and the drive to pursue physician negligence and unsafe medical care, and act accordingly and appropriately to address threats to the integrity of the health care system in New Jersey.”