Five Oklahoma Doctors on Database of Troubled Practitioners

Article excerpt

A national health industry database covering the 1990s shows five Oklahoma doctors with 10 or more malpractice payments or disciplinary actions against them.

One doctor is still practicing with 12 malpractice payments totaling $435,398 related to surgery he performed between 1988 and 1992, the National Practitioners Data Bank showed.

Another doctor had 10 disciplinary actions between 1990 and 1996, mostly related to alcohol and drug abuse. That doctor's license was revoked in 1996, the database shows. No detailed information was available for the other three doctors.

According to the database, there were 420 adverse license actions taken against Oklahoma doctors and 862 malpractice payments reported to federal officials from the state between Sept. 1, 1990, to Dec. 31, 1999. The average malpractice payment was $191,900 and took place 3.6 years after the incident that caused it, the database showed.

The database shows malpractice payments and disciplinary actions against more than 145,000 doctors across the country.

One of every seven U.S. doctors and one of every eight dentists has at least one malpractice payment or disciplinary report in the National Practitioners Data Bank, which the Department of Health and Human Services has been compiling since 1990.

Consumer advocates and a key congressional Republican are pressing to disclose the names to help patients shop for doctors. Medical experts oppose such a release, fearing the data is skewed by malpractice insurance settlements.

Details of the payments and actions, including the identities of the doctors, is provided only to insurance companies, hospitals and other health care regulators.

U.S. Rep. Tom Bliley, R-Va., wants to make public the names of doctors on the database with 13 or more actions or malpractice payments against them.

But the database is intended only as a health industry tracking device and should not be used to publicize the names of disciplined doctors, said Dr. Jack Beller, an Oklahoma Medical Association officer.

He said the database is not even necessarily an indicator of bad doctors.

"A good many doctors on the database may be the best doctors because they are willing to take on the very complicated problems," said Beller, a Norman orthopedic surgeon.

Beller said the job of releasing the names of disciplined doctors should be left in the hands of the Oklahoma Medical Licensure Board, which runs a Web site that lets the public check the discipline status of individual doctors. …