The Arizona Medical Board has reduced its backlog of more than 1,300 cases since last year, but hundreds of complaints have taken longer than six months to complete.
The state’s regulator of medical doctors will finish a three-day meeting today, held to further chip away at a backlog that has concerned the board, patients, physicians and the governor’s office.
The board was scheduled to consider 85 cases involving 89 doctors during the meeting, although 933 complaints remain in various stages of review. Still, that is considerably less than it was before the board brought in a new executive director in December, when the backlog exceeded 1,300 cases, said Roger Downey, a board spokesman.
Since April, when there were 1,140 open cases, the number has been reduced by 207, he said.
"We’re happy to see they’ve made progress. We were initially very concerned," said Lynette Evans, policy adviser to Gov. Janet
Napolitano. "Obviously we want to see that continue. From a consumer standpoint and from a public safety standpoint, that’s good."
Timothy Miller, the board’s new executive director, is working toward the goal of completing case investigations in 180 days, but an increasing number of complaints are taking longer to resolve, Downey said. The backlog includes 545 cases that have been open for more than six months.
Miller told the board Thursday that complaints are taking longer because the quality of investigations has not met that board’s standards. With only three investigators in place in December, case investigations lacked thoroughness, requiring staff to complete them properly before cases could go to the board for consideration. By the end of the month, the board plans to employ 11 investigators.
Miller replaces Barry Cassidy, who resigned last year amid criticism about staff turnover.
Meanwhile, as new cases continue to come to the board, Miller is working on improving the process of investigations, Downey said.
"As you decrease that backlog, you’re getting new cases," he said. "There is a large caseload here."