By JACK WEATHERLY
The Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure decided not to renew its contract with Dr. John Hall, its executive director, on May 18, less than a year after Hall brought his aggressive style to bear on physicians’ sexual behavior with patients.
“I’d like to think I did some good,” Hall said in an interview on May 19. “We did more disciplinary action in the first 90 days I was here than [Dr. H.] Vann Craig did in 10 years” in that position, he said.
In those three months, about a half-dozen doctors surrendered their licenses and another half-dozen licenses were indefinitely suspended.
Hall said he was not “the least bit surprised” by his termination.
Dr. Charles Miles, board president, said on May 19 that the termination is a personnel matter and he is limited in what he can say.
“Let me just say that I just have the utmost respect for John Hall. John and I are friends and remain so.”
“It just wasn’t working out. This was a trial year and John knew that.” Hall will be in his position till June 30, when his contract expires, Miles said. “It just wasn’t a good match,” Miles said.
Hall favored legislation to make sexual behavior between physician and patient punishable as a felony.
House Bill 340 got nowhere in the Legislature this year.
Members of the board made no public statements about the measure and during meetings expressed misgivings about Hall’s approach.
Miles reiterated his opinion of Hall’s credentials, saying he was “head and shoulders above” a field of about a half-dozen.
However, some board members were reluctant to sign on to a new direction.
Hall’s arrival last year followed criticism of the board’s website, which Consumer Reports in April 2016 ranked it 65th among all such sites.
Months later, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said in a series of articles based on a yearlong investigative series that Mississippi ranked 51st among states and the District of Columbia in patient protection from abusive physicians.
An article published Nov. 28 by the Mississippi Business Journal brought that report to light. Hall said in an interview with the MBJ for that article that he had already been working with lawmakers to develop a bill to deal with the matter.
Hall, who also has a law degree and a master of business administration degree, contended in the article that “consent” by a patient is “impossible,” because of what he calls an “insurmountable power barrier.”
Dr. S. Randall Easterling was critical of the articles by the Atlanta newspaper.
Hall said in an interview Dec. 8 that he has been “waist-deep” in the issue for a decade, and so his effort in working with legislators was not at all influenced by the newspaper’s reports.
Easterling said at a committee meeting on that “we’re in a different era,” where the emphasis is on punishing physicians with an impairment, whether sexual or substance abuse.
At one point in the past, the Mississippi board was ranked tops because of its punitive emphasis, Easterling said. Now it’s being downgraded because of its emphasis on rehabilitation, he said.
Miles said Hall has been instrumental in streamlining the medical licensure process in his short tenure, Miles said.
Whereas the medical board did not openly oppose or support the 2017 measure dealing with physicians’ sexual behavior, it sought to put rules in place on another issue, telemedicine, by attempting to go through the Secretary of State’s office to require that providers have a video component and met other stipulations.
However, a leading provider of telemedicine, Teladoc Inc. demanded that the board provide an economic impact statement in its proposed rules changes. The board to agree to a stay of implementation.
The medical board never provided the impact statement. Meantime, Teladoc succeeded in getting a bill easily passed in the House to make the visual component optional. The measure stalled in the House and was not reintroduced in the 2017 session,.
The board’s nine voting members are all Mississippi licensed medical doctors and members of the Mississippi Medical Association, which strongly opposed the Teladoc-supported measure.
In March, the medical board disciplined a physician for unlawfully prescribing amphetamines for weight loss to a woman with whom he had an ongoing sexual relationship.
The medical license of Dr. Bret A. Boes, a Meridian physician, was suspended — but stayed for at least five years, as long as he met a long list of conditions.
The penalty in such cases would be much harsher if House Bill 340 had not died in committee.
Hall said he has no immediate plans, though he might go back into consulting.
Hall is paid $250,000 a year as director, which he says is half of what he was paid as chief clinical officer for Executive Health Resources, a research division of Optum.
He was professor of anesthesia and pediatrics and bioethics and humanities at Blair Batson Children’s Hospital, and chief of anesthesiology at the hospital.