NCMB efficacy is called into question in latest audit report.
The North Carolina Office of State Auditor (NCOSA) released its findings concerning an audit of the North Carolina Board of Medicine’s performance in a January 2023 report that has prompted citizens of North Carolina to question the efficacy of the North Carolina Board of Medicine (NCMB). According to the audit report, the Board’s responsibilities are to issue licenses to qualified medical providers, investigate complaints against providers, and discipline providers who violate the North Carolina Medical Practice Act. The audit report states that the public has no assurance that the Board addressed all complaints, handled investigations properly, appropriate discipline was consistently carried out, or that all qualifying accounts were publicly reported.
The final report scrutinizes the medical board’s handling of provider complaints and claims that a full accounting of the NCMB’s actions cannot be found because the board is withholding information concerning disciplinary and investigative actions.
The auditor’s office further states the limited number of files that the board released were missing essential information, and therefore, it was unable to reach a conclusion as to the effectiveness of the NCMB’s ability to protect North Carolina’s public. According to the Investigations of Medical Providers North Carolina Medical Board Performance Audit, the official document released by the auditors, examples of information that was redacted from the received files included the name of the medical provider, license number and contact information, case numbers, medical records and interview notes from the board’s investigations, and evidence of disciplinary action taken by the board. The files that were received also only equated to about 25 percent of the number of cases handled by the NCMB over the two-year review period, and the audit called attention to the board’s scope limitations, claiming that investigations were not carried out in the allowed timeframe. State laws require the investigations to adhere to a six-month scope and an exception to the six-month allotment can only be made if written notice is given.
NCMB CEO David Henderson responded to these accusations by stating that confidentiality laws prohibited the release of sensitive and proprietary information to outside sources. The NCMB also released an official response to the audit findings that criticizes the board’s investigative timeline, claiming that there was no law stating that investigations must adhere to a six-month period.
State Auditor Beth Wood’s office countered these allegations, saying that state laws allowed the release of sensitive information to their office and that they were bound by confidentiality laws to protect all information released to them. The state auditors work with other government agencies, such as Medicaid, and are exempt from the confidentiality clauses that Henderson cited.
All the back and forth aside, it remains a fact that the responsibility of the medical board is to provide proper oversight over its constituents and to ensure the safety of the public. Throughout the two-year review period, physicians under the purview of the NCMB were convicted of crimes that range from multiple counts of indecent exposure to sexual assault of a patient. The protection and safety of the public rely on the ability of the NCMB to thoroughly investigate all claims and to take appropriate action, including notifying the public of crimes committed by physicians. Its refusal to cooperate with an audit violates the trust afforded to the board by its position and instills a sense of skepticism and doubt in its ability to carry out essential functions.