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Is COVID Providing Cover For Bad Doctors?

There has been a huge drop in the number of disciplinary actions taken against doctors from April to June of this year compared to 2019. This is the time when the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak really took hold in the U.S. The middle of April to the middle of May was the peak time for COVID deaths in Maryland and other areas of the east coast. 

Medical Boards and Doctor Discipline

According to a report in USA Today, emergency actions against doctors’ licenses fell 59% from April to June of this year compared to last year. In April, license suspensions and restrictions fell 85%, according to records provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration. 

When a patient, hospital, or other healthcare professional has a concern about a doctor’s care, they can report it to the state medical board. The state medical board will review the complaint and take emergency action if they believe the doctor may present an immediate threat to the health and safety of patients under their care. This may be temporary until the board can make a further determination. 

Why did the number of emergency actions against doctors suddenly drop during COVID-19? Medical boards may have been more concerned with the pandemic, making sure there were enough doctors to handle the surge, and ignoring minor complaints. However, failure to temporarily suspend dangerous doctors could put patients at risk of injury or death. 

State medical boards are the only authority to take away a doctor’s license to practice or impose other sanctions. If the state medical boards were understaffed during COVID-19 or failed to take action, who is left to protect patients when a doctor commits a serious error which leads to injury, delayed treatment, or death?

Hospitals Silencing Nurses and Doctors Over Dangerous Conditions

The New York Times reported on hospitals warning doctors, nurses, and staff members not to speak out about unsafe work conditions during COVID-19. Healthcare workers who expressed concern about the lack of protective equipment and hazardous working conditions were disciplined and terminated

Patients and family members may not be informed about safety hazards during COVID-19, which could pose a serious health risk. Family members of residents in nursing homes often did not learn about their loved ones suffering coronavirus symptoms until they were sick, dying, or had already passed away. 

In May, we wrote about a lawsuit against a nursing home in North Carolina for failure to track the spread of the virus, not following cleaning protocols, and lack of staffing. The family did not even learn about their loved one’s illness until a local news story reported on the nursing home’s struggle with COVID-19. 

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney After Negligent Treatment

The public may not be able to rely on medical boards to get rid of bad doctors. Hospitals may also be reluctant to get rid of dangerous doctors if they keep bringing in money. If you received negligent medical treatment that caused an injury, you can contact a medical malpractice attorney for help. To discuss your case with a member of our legal team, fill out an online case evaluation form or call (800) 529-6162 today. 

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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