The Fulton County Hospital Board of Governors met in a special session on Wednesday, Sept. 12 to vote on a proposal that would give Dr. Kauffman limited privileges to see patients at the hospital.
"The medical staff unanimously allowed, voted for Dr. Kauffman to have the temporary privileges based on a shadow protocol," Chief of Staff Dr. Griffin Arnold told the board. "Dr. Kauffman has been granted a temporary license by the medical board."
Kauffman's license was suspended in June of 2009 and revoked in October of 2009. According to Dr. Arnold, under a temporary license, the Arkansas State Medical Board wanted to see a transition plan to help Kauffman go from inactivity to seeing patients again.
"Between Dr. Moody and Dr. Bozeman and the medical board, they came up with what they call shadowing," Arnold explained. "The shadow protocol will allow Dr. Kauffman to follow around Dr. Moody and Dr. Bozeman with their patients, and kind of get a handle again on treatments and protocols. Get the cob webs off his thinking process, so he can kind of get back to doing Dr. stuff."
Because of past appearances before the medical board, Dr. Kauffman was put on a "zero tolerance" plan in January of 2009, banning the use of any alcohol, drugs or over the counter medications. Kauffman's license was suspended when he admitted to taking the allergy medicine, sudafed, without first getting permission from the medical board.
Fulton County community leaders traveled to a medical board meeting in Little Rock in August of 2011 to support Kauffman's request that his license to practice be restored. Kauffman tried to present evidence that he had the support of his therapist, and that he had worked hard to overcome any alcohol or drug issues. The board, at that time, did not act on the licensing request, but indicated he could return in three months, if he remained alcohol and drug free.
While the medical board told Kauffman in August he could apply for a temporary license, spokesperson Peggy Trice said it wanted to see a plan for his re-entry into the practice of medicine, including a way for local doctos to monitor him. a According to Trice, the process of obtaining the temporary license has been ongoing, and Kauffman is to appear at the next board meeting on Oct. 4.
With a temporary license, Kauffman will be able to seek certification from Medicare and Medicaid, including identification numbers that will allow him to again bill for the treatment of patients. Arnold said it could be three months or longer before Medicare and Medicaid allow him to see patients.
Under the transition plan, Kauffman has agreed to shadow Dr. Moody and Dr. Bozeman, much like a medical student would. He will not be paid until he is licensed and approved to bill for his services.
"This (plan) allows him to get to do a little more stuff in the hospital and the emergency room, but Dr. Moody and Dr. Bozeman have to review his charts 100% for an extended period of time. It ends up being almost a year of reviewing his charts," Arnold said.
Based on the support hospital physicians have shown for Kauffman's return, the hospital board unanimously approved giving Kauffman the limited hospital privileges that were requested..
In the past, hospital officials have expressed support for Kauffman's return. Last year, he worked for the hospital going over doctors' charts to try to help the hospital increase the amount of reimbursement it receives from Medicare and Medicaid.
Kauffman admitted many patients to the hospital while he was in practice, and his return to practice could help bring in more patients. Baxter Regional Hospital noted in a 2011 proposal to manage FCH that admissions had fallen from 3,195 in 2008 to 2,213 in 2011, much of that time period coincided with the time Kauffman has not been able to practice.
While Kauffman had personal problems in the past, many of his patients have remained loyal to him, and many have expressed his belief that he has been unfairly treated by the medical board, losing his license to practice simply for taking an allergy pill.
Kauffman's return could also help with the staffing of the emergency room, and help allieviate a possible physician shortage which may result if two doctors follow through with their plans to retire in the near future.
The October medical board meeting should provide a good indication of where the Doctor stands in his efforts to get back to work.