Arizona Medical Board

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The executive director of the Arizona Medical Board was fired over the weekend. Lisa Wynn was fired following a report by the Arizona Ombudsman-Citizens’ Aide that revealed the board violated rules and laws when giving new doctors credentials. Arizona Republic reporter Mary K. Reinhart, who has been following the story, will tell us more.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The executive director of the Arizona Medical Board was fired over the weekend after a report was released that accused the board of violating a number of state laws. "Arizona Republic" reporter Mary K. Reinhart has been following the story. Good to have you here. This is somewhat complicated, at least involved. Let's try to get as much as we can done. Let's start with the Arizona Medical Board. What is that?

Mary K. Reinhart: It's the regulatory agency that licenses doctors, M.D.s, in the state of Arizona. There are many licensing boards, this one licenses M.D.s. Its members are appointed by the governor. It's called a 9010 agency, nearly all of its operating money comes from the fees that the doctors pay in order to be licensed or to have their licenses renewed, which they have to have every two years.

Ted Simons: Why was executive director Lisa Wynn fired?

Mary K. Reinhart: The board fired Lisa Wynn on a split vote Saturday, a hastily called unusual Saturday board meeting because according to the chairman who spoke, he felt that they had -- The board had lost the public's trust based on a 192-page ombudsman's report released last week that showed that the executive director was in violation of dozens of rules and laws in her efforts to speed licensing. This is what the ombudsman found.

Ted Simons: More information on the report here. Who is the ombudsman? Who did the report, and why was the report done?

Mary K. Reinhart: Well, this report followed an earlier report. We have to go back a couple years, which is one of the defenses Lisa Wynn put forth, that some of these things have been around for a couple years, and in fact predate Lisa Wynn's tenure as executive director of the board. But it began, let's say, with the ombudsman's office with a whistle blower, a complaint from an employee who was concerned, who says she brought her concerns to the deputy director and the executive director, that they were moving too quickly, they were side stepping rules and laws about what kind of verification was needed, primary source verification for doctors' prior employment, education, for their specialty certifications, and she was concerned for the public safety. So she eventually brought her concerns forward, the Arizona Ombudsman, which is an arm of the state legislature, it investigates state agencies, and she also brought her complaints forward to legislators as well.

Ted Simons: The concern was that corners were being cut, the streamlining was to the point where some folks, you couldn't verify their background, couldn't verify recent job history?

Mary K. Reinhart: It wasn't that they couldn't be verified, it was the way the board went about verifying them. And what the Ombudsman's report said was that the executive director and the deputy director would get the certification, the licensing information, the education, without in all cases getting what they call primary source. In other words, no one mailed them copies. They were using online databases in some cases, they were using other methods that the ombudsman's office and the whistle blowers felt were cutting corners in violation of rules and laws. What Lisa Wynn in her defense is saying is that some of these rules were almost 20 years old and were put in place before we had things like online databases, and online applications. You can't -- How do you get someone to stamp an online application? You can't anymore. It's not a paper document any longer. But the concern was instead of coming forward to the legislature and asking, or to the board and asking for rules and laws to be changed, she went around and did those -- Made those changes in policy herself and should have asked permission.

Ted Simons: That's outlined in this report. The board gets the report and the board -- I remember reading your stories on this, other stories on this, it sounds like the board initially after receiving the report gave her a vote of confidence. What happened?

Mary K. Reinhart: It wasn't exact a vote of confidence, but a week before the report was released, the board met on October 2nd and unanimously, 11-0, because there's a vacancy on the 12-member board, unanimously agreed to give director Wynn a letter of reprimand, and allow her to continue in her job, overseeing the agency. A week later the ombudsman's report is released, there's a lot of media, in the newspaper and on TV, and there is absolutely no response from anyone, not the governor's office, not the board, not the board's hired publicist, Gordon James, and Lisa Wynn herself. So several days go on and the board on Friday almost 4:30, calls a Saturday board meeting to fire her. Then at that point saying, split decision, 5-4, with two members absent, and we're not sure why, because most folks called in telephonically. They were on the phone. So we're not sure why two of the members were absent from what was a pretty important vote and a close vote. But in the words of the chairman, they had lost the public trust. What Lisa Wynn and frankly it was Tim Nelson, representing her, said was she was essentially muzzled. She was told not to respond by the board and the board said we would handle communications, and the board in the person of Gordon James, their hired publicist, did not provide any defense for Lisa. She was allowed to respond in the ombudsman's report. In the written report.

Ted Simons: It sounds as though she's a little bit is coming out as far as explanations, especially through the attorney, but quickly now, senator Nancy Bartow is involved to some extent, and how much is the governor's office involved? It is a board, after all.

Mary K. Reinhart: The governor appoints the members of the board. Then they go through Nancy Bartow's committee or the senate health committee chair for confirmation. Senator Bartow was clear from the beginning when this report was released that she wanted -- She didn't think the board's letter of reprimand was enough. When Lisa Wynn was fired she thought that was the right decision. She's also tangled with Lisa Wynn in the past, previous audits, and through this first report that was released, she didn't necessarily go along with the recommendation the ombudsman had made. So Senator Bartow and Lisa Wynn had a little history going back a couple years.

Ted Simons: Last question, quickly, firing of someone -- Lisa Wynn's reputation, her background, her history in the medical community here in the valley, were folks surprised by this?

Mary K. Reinhart: I would say that's fair. They were shocked. She's been in public office for a long time. She's been Director of the board over five years. It wasn't something that just -- She didn't just show up. People were clearly shocked. She's had a terrific reputation in the public health world.

Ted Simons: Something as important as licensing doctors and looking at the background of doctors, we're talking -- What happens next as far as -- People are getting licenses have to be looked at again?

Mary K. Reinhart: What Lisa and her defenders are saying, some of the board members are saying, is that these are problems that have been addressed and are being addressed. Even though the report talks about 2,000 licenses they are recommending be reviewed, either by the auditor general's office or the legislature, they're referring some of these alleged law-breaking allegations to the Attorney General's office who will probably have to move it to the county attorney's office, because they advise the board, a lot of this stuff has been handled already. Some of the board members say internally. There are 600 licenses at issue that were not verified having primary verification on the doctors' previous hospital affiliations. That's an internal review that's been ongoing since earlier this year within the board. So a lot happening, and certainly several more chapters to come.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Good to have you. Great reporting. Thank you so much.

Mary K. Reinhart:Reporter, Arizona Republic;

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