USA Today ran a story about problems in the monitoring of impaired physicians.
Many states lack rules to ensure that medical facilities alert law enforcement or regulatory agencies if they catch employees abusing or diverting drugs, so those staffers often are turned loose to find new jobs without treatment or supervision. Disciplinary action for drug abuse by health care providers, such as suspension of a license to practice, is rare and often doesn’t occur until a practitioner has committed multiple transgressions.
“We certainly see gaps in the system; the examples are many,” says Joseph Perz, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The challenge in addressing the problem is finding a “balanced approach,” Perz adds. “We recognize that addiction is a disease and we recognize the value in … (rehabilitating) a provider. At the same time, we need to be thinking about the potential harm to patients. That balance is difficult.”
One disappointing part of the story is that they failed to discuss the fact that, once they get into physician recovery programs, physicians have extraordinary treatmet outcomes.
The paper posted the following question on twitter: “Thousands of drug-addicted doctors, nurses escape notice, endangering patients, report reveals. What should be done?”
Thank goodness this isn’t actually the approach we take with addicted doctors:
— HR Beyotch (@HRBeyotch) April 16, 2014
Too bad it is the approach we’ve taken with other patients.