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D.C. Board Rarely Punishes Physicians

The board "is not adequately funded so that you can have the personnel that you need to function effectively," he said.

The board has two people to investigate about 45,800 health care licensees, and it shares those investigators with more than 20 other D.C. boards and commissions. The workload is much lighter in Maryland, which has eight investigators, and Virginia, which has 50 full-time and nine part-time investigators.

Among members of the D.C. Board of Medicine are Andrea D. Sullivan, left, Ronald Simmons, James A. Towns and Lawrence A. Manning. (Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)

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The lack of resources has had an impact on some of the board's basic operations. Since 1998, for example, it has not submitted annual reports of its activity to the mayor as required by law, Granger said.

Four Years to Pay Fine

Jewel A. Quinn Jr. has been conducting physical exams for cabdrivers in the District since 1989. For $36, the drivers get a physical, photo and paperwork certifying their health and fitness. Quinn, 52, a general practitioner who graduated from Howard University College of Medicine, estimated that he has examined 4,000 taxi drivers, bus drivers, nurses, barbers and cosmetologists and said he has private patients who come to him for treatment of high blood pressure, diabetes and other ailments.

In 1997, the D.C. board received a complaint that Quinn's Northeast office was unsanitary. It was not until two years later that the board ordered him to pay a $1,000 fine within 30 days or have his license suspended, according to records. In the end, the board gave Quinn seven extensions and four years to pay the fine and never punished him. In a written statement, the board said it gave Quinn more time to pay because of "economic hardship" and a reported burglary at his office. It noted that he paid the full amount in 2003.

In December 2002, Quinn's license expired. The board investigated -- but came to no determination -- whether he had continued practicing without a license. But in an April 2003 memo to Granger, Gregory N. Scurlock, the investigator, said he "advised Dr. Quinn to stop practicing medicine in the District of Columbia until his license had been reinstated." Quinn said that his license was renewed in May 2003.

Last year, the same investigator visited Quinn's office and found it in disarray. Quinn was dressed in layers of ragged clothes and dirty sneakers, and the investigator told Quinn to clean things up, according to the investigator's report.

"He and I agreed that I need to do a better job, but he was happy with what I showed him" two days later, when the investigator returned, Quinn said in an interview.

Quinn practiced for several more months until May 2004, when the board temporarily pulled his license for "demonstrating a willful or careless disregard for the health, welfare or safety of patients and professional or mental incompetence."

"They told me I was mentally or physically impaired because I practice in these conditions," Quinn said. But sharing space with the cab company, he said, was "a way to start up without much overhead. And it's convenient for people to find me."

Quinn said the board told him that it would reinstate his license if he had a psychiatrist certify that he was fit to practice, submit to random drug tests and agree to quarterly office inspections.

In its statement, the board defended its treatment of Quinn over the past seven years, saying that the doctor brought his practice "into compliance."

Many Complaints Untracked

In Maryland, about 3 percent of the more than 10,800 complaints the state board received between 1999 and 2004 led to discipline against doctors, according to its records. In Virginia, the amount was about 9 percent of its more than 8,725 complaints during that period. In the District, about 1 percent -- four of roughly 318 -- led to discipline.

The D.C. figures were compiled by The Post from board minutes; the board does not routinely track the complaints it receives.

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