Legislators will investigate transparency, reporting at NH Board of Medicine

Sep. 16—CONCORD — Legislators will investigate how the New Hampshire Board of Medicine stacks up against other states for transparency regarding doctor misbehavior in what a committee chairman said would be a "deep dive."

The Health and Human Services Oversight Committee unanimously agreed Friday to set up a subcommittee to "investigate the transparency and the reporting by New Hampshire Board of Medicine" to "compare and contrast our approaches to other states' standards" and to develop a report with recommendations for legislation.

The move comes after the Boston Globe recently reported on Yvon Baribeau, a now-retired heart surgeon at Catholic Medical Center whose cases were connected to at least 20 malpractice settlements in New Hampshire.

"There were no references on the New Hampshire Board of Medicine to this particular individual, but there was extensive reference on the Massachusetts board, and yet we are talking about events that are allegedly taking place in New Hampshire," said chairman Mark Pearson, R-Hampstead.

"Why would Massachusetts have more information than our own state is the trigger here," Pearson said.

According to a Union Leader review, the New Hampshire Board of Medicine reported no malpractice payments made by Baribeau.

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, however, listed the dates of 20 payments made in connection with New Hampshire cases dating back to 1999. All but three took place in 2020 or 2021.

CMC this week announced that the Manchester hospital would hire an outside firm "to conduct a thorough, independent review of our clinical oversight and accountability, peer review, and reporting processes to make sure they are the best in the country."

During Friday's hearing, Pearson said there is a separate ongoing legislative review of the state's Office of Professional Licensure and Certification (OPLC).

Douglas Osterhoudt, an attorney for OPLC, told the committee that there are 54 professional licensing boards and that legislators are looking at "sort of the structure of everything on the whole."

Pearson said his subcommittee would take "a deep dive" focused solely on this state's board of medicine.

A reporter's call to the New Hampshire Board of Medicine on Friday was referred to Osterhoudt, who said outside the meeting room that he was not authorized to comment.

Rep. Jeffrey Salloway, D-Lee, said he was carefully avoiding using the doctor cited in the Boston Globe story and wanted to look at the broader issues.

"In order to do this, we require a thoroughly professional subcommittee that is willing to sit through the testimony of the public and the testimony of the professionals then can sort through whether there is a legislative solution required," Salloway said.

Pearson said the subcommittee will focus more broadly.

"It's just compare and contrast and it could well be that there are statutes or laws in New Hampshire that are preventing them from doing this," Pearson said. "This could be an overreaction to the days when too much was disclosed."

CMC spokesperson Lauren Collins-Cline said CMC officials "look forward to a process like this affirming and strengthening best practices and policies. In that spirit, CMC is also having an external review of our systems and processes."

Steve Ahnen, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, said professional licensing boards play a very important role in the state.

Asked in an interview whether New Hampshire should be as transparent as other states, Ahnen said, "There's always a difficult balance relative to patient privacy, one that we certainly all look at very, very cautiously here in New Hampshire. That will be part of the conversation as to where that should fall, and again we'll certainly be part of this conversation."