Ariz. - Through a combination of an improved investigative process and diligent efforts by a larger staff of trained investigators, the Arizona Medical Board has finished work on more than 1,700 cases during the first eleven months of 2005. During this time, the Agency had more than 2,700 cases needing investigation. Executive Director Timothy C. Miller shared the improvements with Board members yesterday (Thursday) near the conclusion of their two-day meeting in Scottsdale.
Mr. Miller said the total number of cases under investigation is now down to 950 after rising to more than 1,300 early in the year, with an additional 1,400 complaints received during the year. In praising staff for making such rapid progress on a backlog of cases, Mr. Miller noted the caseload drop occurred while the Board opened an average of six new cases each day. “They are really dedicated in getting (the number of investigations) down,” Mr. Miller said. He added that after the Board‘s February 2006 meeting he believes the cases under investigation will involve complaints filed no earlier than 2005. And the executive director pointed out that the staff has stabilized and that employee turnover is now within the normal range for state agencies.
Board members honored Pearl Reed, a senior investigator, who recently marked 20 years with the Arizona Medical Board. They presented her with a plaque of appreciation and a standing ovation. Mr. Miller also gave her a framed Letter of Recognition from Governor Janet Napolitano for her years of service.
During its two-day session, the Board took serious disciplinary action against the licenses of five physicians, ranging from practice restrictions to revocation. But it also dismissed nine cases involving doctors, upheld the Executive Director‘s dismissal of six others, and issued 17 non-disciplinary Advisory Letters.
The Board approved a recommendation from an Administrative Law Judge that the license of Phoenix anesthesiologist Richard J. Reid, M.D. be revoked. In 2000, Dr. Reid signed a Consent Agreement that restricted him from practicing medicine and placed him on five years probation for substance abuse. In December of last year, Dr. Reid failed a random drug test. The Arizona Medical Board subsequently ordered him not to practice medicine of any kind and to undergo a medical evaluation. The Board had referred the case to a formal hearing at the Office of Administrative Hearings which returned the revocation recommendation.
Board members referred the case of John M. Ritland, M.D., to a formal hearing for revocation. In April of 2004, the Board had voted to revoke the license of the Board certified obstetrician/gynecologist, then stayed the revocation and placed him on ten years probation for unprofessional conduct with female patients. Dr. Ritland opened his Flagstaff practice in 1987.
The Board approved Interim Consent Agreements for Practice Restrictions involving two Valley physicians. Sudhir K. Goel, M.D., of Phoenix and Harshad S. Patel, M.D., of Sun City have voluntarily entered inpatient treatment and have stopped seeing all patients. Both physicians are Board certified in Internal Medicine. After receiving complaints from female patients, the Arizona Medical Board had summarily restricted Dr. Goel‘s practice on October 7th to male patients. On August 30th the Board summarily restricted Dr. Patel‘s license, preventing him from seeing or treating all female patients without a chaperone in the room for the entire examination. After successfully completing counseling and treatment, Drs. Patel and Goel must have the approval of the Arizona Medical Board to resume their practices.
The Board interviewed Thomas J. Grade, M.D. and then summarily restricted him from prescribing Schedule II and III drugs for excessively prescribing narcotics to patients. Dr. Grade is a Board certified anesthesiologist who has a pain management practice in Mesa. The case automatically goes to a formal hearing at the Office of Adminstrative Hearings.
The Arizona Medical Board will elect new officers on February 9th, the middle day of its three-day meeting – the first of 2006. Board Chair Timothy B. Hunter, M.D. announced he would not seek re-election to that post. Dr. Hunter is a professor and vice-chairman of the Department of Radiology at the University of Arizona. The Board has 12 members appointed by the governor. Eight are physicians, and four are public members, although one must be a registered nurse.