Bookmark and Share

Cuomo wants better oversight of medical professionals

ALBANY

James T. Mulder jmulder@syracuse.com

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding state investigations of doctors accused of misconduct.

Under current law, the state Health Department is not allowed to confirm if it is investigating a doctor. Those investigations would become public under a set of proposals put forth by Cuomo to strengthen oversight of doctors and other medical professionals.

“These sweeping proposals will help ensure patients have access to critical information they need to make informed decisions about their healthcare and give state health regulators more tools to investigate and penalize providers for dangerous, unethical or illegal behavior,” Cuomo said in a prepared statement.

A 2018 Post-Standard report revealed the state’s Board for Professional Medical Conduct has a tendency to go easy on troubled doctors and rarely takes away their medical licenses. It cited the case of Arthur Mercado, a former Oneida County doctor who the board allowed to keep his medical license despite a history of egregious misconduct. Mercado was convicted in 2017 of a felony charge of attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance. The board had previously sanctioned him for having sex with a patient in his office.

DECISION OVERTURNED

Six weeks after The Post-Standard published the story, an administrative review board overturned the medical board’s decision and revoked Mercado’s license.

In addition to making investigations public, Cuomo wants to make public warnings issued against doctors for minor and technical violations public. Under current law, these warnings are kept secret.

Cuomo wants to make it easier for the state to suspend a doctor’s license at the start of investigations. The state can only do that under current law if the doctor poses an “imminent danger” to the public.

Cuomo said doctors have many due process procedural rights under state law that delay the investigative and disciplinary process. It took the state an average of 307 days to complete a medical misconduct investigation in 2018. “These permitted delays allow physicians who are potentially bad actors to continue to practice medicine, at grave risk to patients,” Cuomo said.

Doctors and physician assistants in New York are licensed for life unless they are sanctioned for misconduct, even if they

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to make it easier for the state to suspend medical licenses, and make the investigations public.


move out of state. Cuomo wants the state to require them to periodically renew their New York licenses or lose them.

The state is required to investigate every state licensed doctor when they are charged with misconduct in another state, even if they no longer practice in New York. If the New York licenses of doctors practicing out of state were put on inactive status, state investigators could focus their attention on investigating complaints against doctors practicing here, he said.

Bookmark and Share