Funding Cut for Licensing and Investigation of Doctors

The state agency in charge of licensing and discipline of doctors – including tracking those who have made medical malpractice payments – has had its funding cut.

Eighteen out of 26 medical investigators and staff have been laid off from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which provides licenses for the 46,000 doctors in the state, and investigates claims of wrongdoing. The agency said the cuts were necessary because of a $9.6 million shortfall in the budget.

The cut in personnel will likely lead to delays in issuing licenses to physicians, as well as fewer or less thorough investigations of doctors.

Currently, the agency takes six to eight weeks to process an application from a recent medical school graduate or a doctor moving from out of state. A further delay could result in hospitals being short-staffed.

The staffing cutback comes at a bad time for an agency that had struggled to properly discipline doctors even when thoroughly funded. A 2010 investigation by the Chicago Tribune found poor performance in the agency’s efforts to protect patients from incompetent doctors.

Changes have been made since then, including a new law requiring the permanent revocation of health care workers’ licenses if they are convicted of certain crimes and a chaperon system for doctors charged with crimes. There is also a doctor profile website that maintains physician information including criminal convictions, hospital firings, and medical malpractice payments in the previous five years.

Due in part to the more aggressive efforts, the disciplinary program has an annual deficit of $1.8 million.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer and Chicago medical malpractice attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

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