Hearing Focuses on Texas Medical Board's Practices

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Some doctors are concerned that the Texas Medical Board is too worried about minor infractions.

State Representative Fred Brown of College Station called a hearing in Austin Tuesday to see whether the board is in fact too aggressive when regulating doctors in Texas.

Several doctors, like Sharon Fuentes testified in front of the House Appropriations Committee. In the past, Fuentes has been called into question for her diagnosed depression and a speeding ticket 20 years ago.

"The underlying message that the board sends by discriminating against physicians with depression is that we should suffer in silence," Fuentes said. "If I am retaliated against because of my testimony so be it."

That is one reason Rep. Fred Brown decided to take action. Brown says multiple complaints prompted the hearing. He said doctors are concerned the Texas Medical Board is over enforcing.

"We had so many complaints from doctors statewide that minor complaints were treated with such long periods of time and exasperation by the doctors and the huge amounts of money for legal defense," Brown said.

Brown had been accused of holding the hearing in his business partner's defense. Dr. Royal Benson, a Bryan Gynecologist, has been cited for violating standards of care with three patients.

However, Brown says the hearing is not for him.

"Absolutely not," Brown said. "In fact, Royal Benson isn't here. It has nothing to do with the hearings going on today."

Brown says the hearing was held for all doctors.

"I think the medical board is a little out of control in their disciplinary actions," Bryan physician Dr. Michael Ruggiero said.

Ruggiero says he received a board order after an employee left the practice on bad terms. He believes that employee may have been acting in deceit.

"The board seemed more to be concerned with filling quotas of bad doctors and was able to manufacture reasons to put the board order together," Ruggiero said.

Ruggiero is hanging onto a dwindling practice, facing accusations of substandard patient care and smoking marijuana in his office.

"I'm hoping to have this board order rescinded because it was done unfairly," Ruggiero said. "That way I can get back to practicing and taking care my patients."

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Rep. Fred Brown said the medical board agreed Tuesday to treat minor infractions like speeding tickets, so doctors won't be put through a long, drawn out process.