CA considers substance abuse program for doctors

A bill that aims to create a program for physicians with substance abuse issues is being met with some opposition.
 
Assembly Bill 2346, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), would authorize the Medical Board of California to create a voluntary and confidential program to help doctors with substance abuse.
 
Tina Minasian said during a state hearing Tuesday she was a victim of a doctor with an alcohol problem.
 
"He was at his all time high with his alcohol problem and the medical board was trying to revoke his license but I didn't know any of this," she said. "He was in a secret and dangerous program called diversion."
 
The MBC voted in June 2007 to end its nearly 25-year-old Diversion Program, but some like Minasian are worried that what she called a secret program is coming back by way of this bill.
 
10News has covered several San Diego physicians with prior drug or alcohol issues, including Dr. Manoj Motwani who pleaded guilty for wreckless driving in 2009.
 
Dr. Tarek Kady was another physician in trouble. Documents show he prescribed drugs to himself and illegally prescribed to others.
 
Team 10 found a list of other doctors disciplined by the medical board, including one found bloody and naked in a stairwell with a blood alcohol level of more than .35
 
"A substance abusing doctor is probably the most dangerous doctor out there and they should not be allowed to divert themselves into a private secret monitoring program," said Julie Fellmeth with the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego.
 
Fellmeth opposes the bill. She said patients have a right to know if their doctor is seeking help for drugs or alcohol. 
 
"The bill contains absolutely no safeguard for patients," Fellmeth said.
 
Gonzalez argued there needs to be a program in place to help physicians.
 
"We have it for attorneys, we have it for pharmacists, we have it for dentists," Gonzalez said. "It doesn't make a lot of sense because a program was not working years ago... that we're not going to have a program for doctors in the state."
 
Gonzalez said she will not change the confidentiality portion of the proposed program but will work with opponents to create a strong bill.
 
The bill heads next to the Appropriations Committee.
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