Patient advocates worry 'Dr. Death' law is taking too long to implement

After Texas lawmakers passed a bill in June to close its longstanding "Dr. Death" loophole, some are worried it is too cumbersome to implement, NBC affiliate KXAN reported Sept. 21. 

The "Dr. Death" loophole allowed an infamous physician to keep practicing despite concerns of harm being done to patients.

The new law technically went into effect Sept. 1, however the Texas Medical Board has said it could take up to two years to fully implement.

The state's medical board has previously been criticized for prioritizing "protecting physicians over patients," KXAN reported in a Sept. 5 article.

But a spokesperson for the medical board stated that the lengthy timeline to scale implementation of the law is due to funding mechanisms.

"Based on the statute and funding mechanism, the Board is not concerned it will take two years to have physician and physician assistant licensees enrolled in NPDB CQ," Texas Medical Board spokesman Jarrett Schneider told KXAN about the National Practitioner Data Bank 'Continuous Query,' a monitoring program to oversee physicians and one of the requirements of this new law. "The timeline is what is feasible under the method to fund the program using licensing fees. The board is eager to have the new NPDB CQ up and running as we believe it will be of great benefit to our licensure and enforcement programs."

The continuous query monitoring system is a confidential federal database that will allow for new information about any physician's discipline records nationwide to be shared in real-time as an alert to other state medical boards to warn them, according to the outlet.

Patient advocates have said that the timeline is simply too long and have concerns that are more immediate.

"[T]here were a lot of physicians in Texas that come from states that had taken action against them," Robert Oshel, PhD, a retired HHS employee, told KXAN. "And that's something people in Texas ought to know about on an individual physician basis, not have to wait two years to find out."

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