October 12, 2011

The Medical Board of California, which is responsible to protect health care consumers through the enforcement of the California Medical Practice Act and is also responsible for licensing and regulating physicians, surgeons, and certain allied health care professionals such as midwives, issued its 2010 – 2011 Annual Report in which it provided information regarding medical malpractice claims and complaints in California that were required to be reported to the Board under California law.

According to the Annual Report, there were 7,122 complaints received during fiscal year 2010-2011 (FY 10-11) regarding physicians and surgeons, up from 6,539 for the prior fiscal year. There were 1,338 cases opened for investigation during FY 10-11, which was also up from the prior fiscal year (1,312). Most of the complaints received from the general public were for gross negligence or incompetence (2,427 out of 4,818 complaints received from the public). Gross negligence/incompetence complaints accounted for 3,377 of the 7,122 total complaints (the next largest category of complaints was for unprofessional conduct – 1,649 complaints). Administrative actions were taken in 125 of the gross negligence/incompetence complaints and in 58 of the unprofessional conduct complaints. There were only 38 revocations and 46 suspensions of medical licenses during FY 10-11. The most common administrative action was public reprimand (108) followed by probation (82).

With regard to medical malpractice settlements, the largest percentages were in the medical specialties of internal medicine (11%) and general/family practice (11%), although 37% of the medical malpractice settlement reports were placed in the “other” category. Most of the medical malpractice settlement reports were received from medical malpractice insurance companies (482 out of the 710 total medical malpractice reports during FY 10-11).

During FY 10-11, the California Medical Board received 6,047 new physicians’ and surgeons’ applications for medical licenses, and issued 5,272 licenses. There were 124,398 physicians and surgeons licensed in California (100,544 located in California and 23,854 from out-of-state). These numbers were up from the prior fiscal year (122,451 total: 98,816 in-state and 23,635 out-of-state). The California county with the largest number of physicians and surgeons was Los Angeles County (27,704); the county with the least was Sierra County (0). The largest number of physicians per specialty was in internal medicine (24,684) followed by pediatrics (9,818). The fewest specialists were in colon and rectal surgery (161) and sleep medicine (196).


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