On November 14, the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians and other physician organizations met with members and staff of the State Medical Board of Ohio (SMBO) on proposed rules to create a non-disciplinary, confidential monitoring program that allows licensees with mental or physical illnesses, other than substance use disorders, to be monitored by the SMBO without being subjected to formal public disciplinary action. The program, as proposed by the SMBO, would be entirely within the SMBO’s investigative process and overseen by the SMBO secretary and supervising member.
In early December, physician organizations that attended the November 14 meeting, reiterated their specific concerns with the proposed rules in a jointly signed letter. The letter reads as follows:
“On behalf of the members of the Medical Association Coalition (MAC), we would like to thank you, members of your staff, and board members, Mr. Giacalone, Dr. Schottenstein and Dr. Rothermel, for taking the time to meet with all of us recently. We appreciated the invitation to meet to discuss our shared concerns about proposed rules 4731-28-02, 4731-28-03, 4731-28-04, and 4731-28-05 to implement a confidential monitoring program.
“As stated during our meeting, we applaud the SMBO’s interest in wanting to create a confidential mental health monitoring program for physicians that would allow the board another option besides the current formal disciplinary process. That said, we continue to believe there could be improvements made to the process that result in a truly “confidential” process that is less discriminatory and punitive in nature.
- The program is offered to physicians based solely on diagnosis of mental illness and not on conduct
- The program is not truly confidential
- The program could aggravate existing mental or physical health conditions
- The program lacks adequate due process
- The rules convey that psychiatric disorders are predominantly deteriorating in nature.
“As we all know, any process (even if it is better than what we currently have) that is punitive in nature, based solely on diagnosis and not impairment, will continue to be a deterrent to physicians voluntarily seeking treatment, before there is a problem that results in disciplinary actions down the road.
“We would ask the SMBO again to work with us to develop a process that balances the board’s primary role of protecting the public with the rights of licensees, who have the right of any other patient. Let’s work together to develop a process that truly encourages physicians to voluntarily seek treatment for symptoms of a mental illness – at the earliest onset of symptoms – without fear of retribution by the board – before doing harm to their patients or themselves.”