Illinois Medical Licensing Department Faces Backlogs; Delays May Be 12-18 Months Because of Reduction of Workers

Article excerpt

Illinois could lose 3,000 medical residents to other states this year since budget shortfalls have left the state with one person to process applications for new medical licenses.

Last week, 18 workers in the Department of Financial and Professional Regulations medical unit were moved to other state offices, leaving the office with eight employeesone to process licenses, one coordinator, three investigators to handle complaints against doctors and three attorneys to argue those cases for the state.

Department officials say they need $9.6 million to continue the units operations with a full workforce or there will be delays of 12 to 18 months to process new and continuing medical licenses for doctors. A bill to transfer that money from other state funds failed in the last legislative session. The states largest physicians group opposed the bill because it would probably require paying back the money through increases in doctors license fees.

Hospital officials in the Metro East said they are concerned that this years medical school graduates and more established doctors recruited to work in Illinois will take jobs in other states.

About 20 out-of-state doctors are in the hiring process with Hospital Sisters Health System, which runs eight hospitals in Illinois, including St. Elizabeths in Belleville. The hospital also hosts residents who have graduated from medical schools each year and receive training in specialty fields.

Theres a real concern were going to lose people weve recruited and were hoping to come aboard later this year, who are second- guessing if Illinois is a good place to practice medicine, said Brian Reardon, spokesman for Hospital Sisters. Some of the best and brightest may bypass Illinois because of this issue.

Two doctors from outside Illinois have verbally committed to jobs starting this summer at Memorial Hospital in Belleville but could back out because of the licensing delay, said Dr. William Casperson, a general surgeon and the hospitals vice president of medical affairs.

We have no assurance theyd be able to get their license in that time frame, Casperson said. If were wanting to step up care that we can provide in Illinois, it really puts a wrench in the works.

All doctors in Illinois work under three-year licenses that expire in July 2014. If the departments funding is not increased, officials say many of those licenses will expire before the renewals can be processed, making it illegal for the doctors to practice medicine. When fully staffed, the department issued new medical licenses in about three weeks.

Both sides agree that a solution is likely before the doctors current licenses expire next year. …