Thirty health workers punished for sex misconduct

LANSING (AP) — Michigan licensing boards disciplined 30 health care professionals for sexual assault or misconduct in the last year, according to a newspaper investigation.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs received 238 allegations of sexual misconduct by health professionals between 2011 and 2016, the Lansing State Journal reported.

In the 30 disciplinary cases between May 2017 and May 2018, 17 are known to involve patients or clients.

One of the offenders was ex-sports doctor Larry Nassar, who sexually abused hundreds of girls and women while employed at Michigan State University. Other offenders include a massage therapist who inappropriately touched multiple clients, an athletic trainer who assaulted high school students and an occupational therapist who attempted to grope a patient with a traumatic brain injury, according to the newspaper’s investigation.

Most of the disciplined professionals couldn’t be reached for comment.

Licensing boards often decide the punishment for health care professionals, such as suspending medical licenses or revoking them entirely, state licensing officials said. Sometimes professionals are given multiple strikes before being removed.

State policy discourages licensing boards from sharing concerns with law enforcement, said Pardeep Toor, spokesman for the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The restriction is in place to protect the privacy of professionals and complainants, as well as professionals’ rights to appeal the board’s decision, he said.

But some have argued that Michigan and other states with similar policies should require licensing boards to share information with police. Michigan lawmakers are pushing the American Medical Association to help close the loophole that discourages boards from talking to law enforcement.

“This is a widespread issue with systemic problems,” said Dr. Meg Edison, a Grand Rapids-area pediatrician. “People are crazy if they think this is just a Michigan problem.”

Michigan officials have said they hope to take lessons from the Nassar case and lead reforms nationally to stop future abusers. The Michigan Legislature is also pushing several bills following the Nassar case, including legislation that would require the state to permanently revoke licenses from health care professionals who commit sex crimes under the guise of medical treatment.