ANNAPOLIS, FEB. 23 -- Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer's plan to overhaul the state's system for disciplining doctors got a generally favorable reception before a House panel today and won the qualified support of doctors involved in the current regulatory system.
The proposal is meant to shore up a disciplinary system plagued with delays and laxity. It would provide a major infusion of funds to hire full-time investigators and hearing examiners who would take over some of the functions now performed by state and local medical societies.
There was no opposition during today's three-hour hearing before the House Environmental Matters Committee, but some members said they want to make sure the plan will go far enough.
Del. William A. Clark (R-Harford) said he is concerned that the state medical society, formally known as the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland, will continue to have too great a role in investigating complaints against doctors.
"They protect their own," said Clark. "It's very difficult to get the faculty to pursue the most important cases, the incompetence cases." Clark said he will seek to amend the bill to sharply limit the role of the medical society in investigations.
The Schaefer plan would abolish the Commission on Medical Discipline and the state Board of Medical Examiners -- the group that issues and renews medical licenses -- and set up a single organization.
Administration officials told the committee that the medical society no longer would investigate complaints; that function would be assumed by four new investigators. The medical society would, however, render judgments and answer specific questions about whether medical procedures or a doctor's practice conforms with prevailing standards of the profession.
The current chairman of the Commission on Medical Discipline and members of the Board of Medical Examiners said they generally support the plan, but they urged that it be amended so that the 15 members of the new disciplinary board choose a chairman from among the 11 physicians in their ranks. The governor wants to name the chairman.