The leader of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council is hoping the Iowa Legislature takes action after a recent Iowa Supreme Court decision preventing the state Board of Medical Examiners from releasing preliminary information in the investigations of complaints against doctors.
FOI executive director, Randy Evans, says the Medical Board had done this for many years. “I think the board took the position that they were only making public selective details of the case that informed the public on what the legal basis for the charges were,” Evans says. Evans says the Supreme Court ruling found the law doesn’t allow information to be released until the final settlement.
“They point to the definitive language in the statute — which said that the findings of fact and the conclusion of the board, their final ruling was a public record. But that the court’s opinion was that there was no wiggle room to make any of that public earlier in the case,” he says. Evans says this is important information that could impact the lives of people seeking medical treatment.
“If there is a belief by the Board of Medicine that there is a legal basis for disciplinary charges to be filed — we believe that the citizens are entitled to know that to make a decision on which doctors they are going to patronize,” according to Evans. Evans says doctors do need to be protected from unsubstantiated claims — but he believes the Medical Board has done a good job of investigating.
He says there are some 600 accusations each year against the 6,600 physicians in the state. “There’s only 25 to 30 cases that they file disciplinary charges in. So, to me that says that the Medical Board and its staff of investigators are doing a pretty thorough job of vetting these accusations to ensure they are not simply someone who dislikes a particular physician, or that has a vendetta,” Evans says.
He says the justices noted the tough situation of protecting the public and the physicians in this case. (as said)”The court’s opinion takes note that there are factors affecting public health and safety that the legislature may want to balance against the current wording in the statute,” Evans says.
Evans says the FOI Council supports the legislature looking at the issue and he says it’s likely the medical board will pursue action with the legislature. The case involved allegations against former University of Iowa doctor, Domenico Calcaterra, a cardiothoracic surgeon, who now practices out of state. He reached a settlement where he accepted a citation and warning and agreed to pay a five-thousand-dollar civil penalty. Calcaterra later sued, saying information still on the medical board’s website was hurting his medical career.
Here’s the court ruling: Medical Board Information ruling PDF