Health care groups say they don't know about complaints alleging bias State medical association probing 'covert problem,' plans autumn forums

June 23, 1998|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Hospital Association and the state physician licensing board say they are unaware of complaints that their members' decisions have been discriminatory, despite an investigation into alleged bias against minority, female and foreign-educated doctors.

The investigation was triggered by complaints to the state medical society -- the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland -- over the past year. Med-Chi, which formed a task force to study the issue, plans to begin forums around the state in the fall to hear from doctors and others with relevant information.

It also is likely to survey physicians statewide to determine whether a widespread problem exists, said T. Michael Preston, Med-Chi's executive director.

"These complaints have come to our attention from different sources, basically members who are concerned about whether credentialing and licensure decisions may be affected by inappropriate factors like sex, race and foreign graduate status," Preston said.

No hard evidence suggests problems at specific institutions, "but some of the individuals who have expressed concern tell us it is a very covert problem," he said. "We want to look at this phenomenon to see if it indicates a widespread pattern."

A report of the findings is expected by early next year. Med-Chi has no direct power over any of the institutions but could influence the state legislature.

Preston said some cases surfaced in Med-Chi's physician rehabilitation committee, which reviews and provides assistance for doctors impaired by problems such as psychological

disorders or substance abuse.

Some complaints also have alleged discrimination in Maryland's procedure for licensing doctors.

rTC Barbara Vona, chief of compliance for the state's Board of Physician Quality Assurance, said she is unaware of complaints about discrimination in licensing doctors. "We would be interested in hearing or learning of any comments physicians around the state have," she said.

Nancy Fiedler, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Hospital Association, said she, too, is unaware of claims that hospitals have discriminated.

"We have always been a strong supporter of strong physician credentialing, which means not all physicians get credentials. But the process must be handled in a fair manner," Fiedler said.

All Maryland hospitals are accredited through a stringent process by the Chicago-based Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations.

Other questions about discrimination were raised recently at the American Medical Association convention in Chicago.

The AMA's section for foreign medical graduates objected to a clinical test being required starting next month for foreign medical graduates applying for U.S. residency programs.

The group says the test exceeds standards required for U.S.-trained doctors and requires applicants to travel to Philadelphia for the exam, a step that will be cost-prohibitive for many, according to the AMA.

Pub Date: 6/23/98

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