Bills would transfer discipline of doctors to state agency


To avoid leaving Maryland without a way to license and discipline doctors should key legislation fail, two lawmakers introduced bills yesterday that would transfer those powers to a state agency July 1.

The move comes as legislators who want to reform the way doctors are disciplined are locked in a struggle with the medical lobby.

They say few Maryland doctors are punished because the standard of proof is too high and the board that conducts reviews is dominated by physicians who may be reluctant to act against their colleagues.

The state medical society, known as the Medical & Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland, or MedChi, has called the criticism overblown and objects to many of the proposed changes -- most notably, a provision that would make it easier to impose sanctions against bad doctors.

But if lawmakers can't come to an agreement before the session adjourns April 7, the Board of Physician Quality Assurance, which regulates doctors, will be forced to shut down June 30.

The new proposal -- introduced by the heads of the House and Senate health committees -- is a just-in-case provision, making sure the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene would assume oversight of physicians.

Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, the Senate committee chairwoman, said she is trying to negotiate with MedChi, but she won't accept a bill unless it includes a lowering of the standard of proof to act against doctors.

The executive director of the medical board declined to take a position on the new proposal yesterday.

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