Nevada panel OKs plan to toughen doctor sanctions

A Nevada Senate committee gave preliminary approval Friday to a plan to ensure doctors are disciplined when hit with medical malpractice court judgments.

The Commerce and Labor Committee voted for an amendment to SB250 to require the state Board of Medical Examiners to impose sanctions if it finds a doctor failed to act properly.

Commerce and Labor Chairman Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, said there's a public perception that the board is lagging in its oversight of physicians involved in malpractice.

"We want to make sure when we find a bad problem, we act," Townsend said.

The committee will take final action at a later date on the bill, which stems from a medical malpractice crisis that caused doctors' insurance costs to skyrocket.

Keith Lee, lobbyist for the medical examiners board, told the committee there's already an investigatory process when the board learns of a malpractice judgment.

But Townsend said the present law gives the board the discretion to impose discipline. He wants the law to read that the board "shall" punish when it finds malpractice.

Lee said the bill should include due process for the doctors who are called before the board. He said he doesn't want to see something in the legislation that "we give them a fair trial and then hang them."

The committee also approved an amendment to require a performance audit of the medical examiners board to determine if it is efficient in conducting its investigations and how it uses its money.

The board is supported by licensing fees from doctors.

Sen. Ann O'Connell, R-Las Vegas, said there is "a question about spending" by the board. And she said there appears to be a lack of concern by the panel about the state's malpractice crisis.

O'Connell's amendment says the audit will review the efficiency of the board in taking preventative steps "to remedy or deter any unprofessional conduct" by a physician. And the audit would examine how the board responds to complaint filed by the public against doctors.


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