Slow start for medical board’s review of old, closed cases

By Kantele Franko - Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A review of whether the State Medical Board of Ohio properly closed about 2,000 complaints alleging sexual misconduct or impropriety by doctors is moving much more slowly than initially anticipated.

It has been hampered by difficulties in lining up qualified reviewers who are willing to commit substantial time to that effort, which can require a day’s work or more per case, according to board officials. The board originally aimed to finish the review by this month, then reset its goal to June, but now considers that unlikely, too.

“When we gave original time estimates and original deadlines, we did not know the scope, the complexity of this process,” Stephanie Loucka, the board’s executive director, said at a recent committee meeting.

The review was launched in September after the board learned evidence of misconduct was ignored in a 1996 investigation involving Richard Strauss, the late Ohio State team doctor now accused of abusing young men throughout his two decades at the university. Strauss was never disciplined, and officials haven’t been able to determine why that case was closed.

To double-check other old cases, the board sought to hire professionals such as former prosecutors and law enforcement agents to work as paid reviewers. They are supposed to pore over old medical charts, police reports and other records to evaluate whether those complaints from the past 25 years were properly closed and whether any licensees who had a duty to report misconduct might have failed to do so.

The board has more than a dozen outside reviewers under contract, though it indicated some haven’t been willing to dedicate as much time to the project as hoped. Loucka expressed optimism that the pace will pick up as more reviewers join and they get more familiar with the process.

The board’s president, Dr. Michael Schottenstein, told members it’s possible they could consider asking the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or other state agencies for help to boost the manpower on the review.

“It’s frankly been an enormous undertaking,” Schottenstein said. “But it’s important, and it’s necessary, and we’re going to do it, and we’re going to do it right.”

By Kantele Franko

Associated Press