Monday, August 15, 2011

California Dental Board Fines Often Go Unpaid


California dental regulators have collected only about 20 percent of the fines they have levied against dentists in the last four years, a far weaker record than licensing authorities that oversee registered and vocational nurses and psychiatric technicians.

That record, revealed in a recent legislative report, emerged as the Legislature is taking a close look at several medical oversight boards whose regulatory powers are set to expire under the law.

According to the report, the Dental Board of California collected a high of 37 percent of fines in 2007 and a low of 9 percent in the fiscal year ending in 2010. Since 2006, the board has assessed about $125,000 in fines and collected about $24,000.

In contrast, the board that licenses vocational nurses and psychiatric technicians has in recent years collected about 80 percent of the fines it levies.

This is a poor record and the excuse delivered by the Executive Director of the Board is weak.
Richard DeCuir, executive officer of the dental board, said most fines are levied when inspectors find unsanitary conditions in dental offices.

The dental board also is increasingly using citations and fines to go after dentists who don’t comply with requests for patient records during an investigation.

DeCuir said the fine payment rate lags behinds because dentists repeatedly appeal citations; if citations are finalized, they appear on the dentist’s license status for decades. In contrast, citations for nurses and pharmacists are taken off a licensee’s public website profile after three or five years.

DeCuir said his board has asked for a limit on citation disclosure as part of the law to continue the dental board's authority. That amendment has not yet been added to the pending legislation, SB 540.

He said the board was told that a bill would be put together next year to address multiple enforcement issues for licensing boards. DeCuir also said licensees are required to pay outstanding fines before they’re allowed to renew their license.

Records show that the board is owed $101,000 in unpaid fines over the last four years.
I would suggest that if the Board finds it impossible to enforce the fines, then the California Legislature and the Governor either need to change the law regarding them or staff the enforcement division so they can be collected in a timely matter.

But, knowing the Democratic Legislature and Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, I won't be holding my breath.

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