Connecticut Doctor Discipline Delayed

A Connecticut investigation has found significant delays in the physician discipline process.

The time lag between a patient’s complaint about a doctor — and a resolution by the state’s medical board — can last two, three or even four years, according to the Connecticut Health Investigative Team (C-HIT) — an online nonprofit. Reporter Lisa Chedekel and a co-writer pored through 18 months of medical board records. Chedekel says in the most egregious cases, where public safety was deemed at immediate risk, the board did act quickly to revoke medical licenses. But in others, doctors are able to continue repeating their mistakes for two or three years.

Chedekel says the problem seems to lie in the structure of the physician discipline process. Connecticut is one of the only states where the medical board does not have its own investigation unit, but rather relies on the Department of Public Health (DPH) to conduct investigations. And since the DPH is overtaxed and responsible for many health-related functions, she says, the process can get hung up for a long time.

DPH said in a statement that it recently reviewed its discipline process and is “continually working to improve the timeliness of its investigations.”

Among the recent complaints highlighted by C-HIT was: sending a patient home from surgery with a severed spleen, operating on the wrong part of the body, prescribing high doses of strong medicine without justification, and charging thousands of dollars for useless natural remedies.

Connecticut also ranks low in the severity of disciplinary action taken against doctors, according to the national advocacy group Public Citizen.