Report: Board approved licenses without properly vetting doctors

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX (AP) -- An oversight agency report says the Arizona Medical Board put patients at risk by failing to properly conduct background investigations on doctors applying for licenses.
The report from the independent Arizona Ombudsman-Citizens' Aide released Wednesday concluded the board's executive director told staff to skip normal background investigations to streamline the process in violation of the law.
The report substantiated 19 of 20 allegations brought by current and former employees.

State ombudsman Dennis Wells says proper guidelines were not followed dating back to 2011.   Two-thousand doctors were given licenses in the time frame his office investigated.

"The rules on the books are there for a reason. They're there to protect public health, safety, and welfare," Wells told 3TV.

The investigation report says the staff did not properly look into doctors' birth certificates, passports, disciplinary reports, or school certification.

"It potentially.... compromised human safety," Wells said.

Concerned staff members secretly recorded conversations with Wynn. In audio files obtained by 3TV, Wynn is heard saying she is aware her orders do not comply with state rules, but she "isn't really worried about it," because "the rules were written in a pre-web era."

Wynn is also heard telling her staffer that their office will be the envy of other state medical boards.

"Other states are going to look at us and go, 'What the hell? They've got four full-time people, 21,000 docs, and look at how effective they are with licensing."

When confronted about the possibility of an unqualified doctor slipping through the cracks, Wynn responds, "What is the worst thing that could happen? He murders a patient under the influence of alcohol. The fact that we never had a birth certificate won't matter."

"I tend not to sweat that stuff," Wynn continues.

In a statement, the Board says it already instituted reforms to make sure staff follows statutes and rules.

The Ombudsman report recommended that all physician licenses issued since September 2011 be reviewed by the state auditor.