A bill to overhaul the disciplinary process for doctors has received Governor Jim Gibbons' signature. The new law, proposed by the state Medical Board, is an effort to restore public confidence following the hepatitis C crisis in southern Nevada.
Senate Bill 269 is some 80 pages long. It's one of several new laws born of what legislators consider the inaction of the state Medical Board following the hepatitis C crisis.
Among its provisions is the ability of the board to suspend the license of a doctor who's practice may pose an imminent threat to the public, a power the board insists it did not have previously.
Also for the first time, patients will have a voice in the disciplinary process. Much like a criminal case, those harmed by a doctor may deliver a victim impact statement to the board following a malpractice finding.
New provisions to speed the hearing process are also included. Previously, complaints before the board could take years to resolve.
Bill sponsor Maggie Carlton believes the improvements are a critical step toward protecting public safety. "I think we have already fixed a few pieces of it and I think we can fix the other pieces in the very near future. Shame on us for having this happen once, but there's no reason, no logical reason, this should happen again. Just none," said Carlton.
Another bill provision allows the board to enter into voluntary remediation agreements with doctors to correct issues that may not warrant disciplinary action. Under the terms, the agreement would be public but the name of the doctor involved would be confidential.
Executive Director Louis Ling insists it will allow the board to address problematic practices before any harm comes to a patient.
Because of its controversial nature, that last provision has a sunset clause. It will again be reviewed by the legislature in 2011.