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Scott roils medical board - again

Gov. Rick Scott's list of appointees he's dumping includes the chair and vice-chair of the Florida Board of Medicine and the interim secretaries of the Agency for Health Care Administration and Elder Affairs.

When the list was released on Wednesday night, it wasn't clear whether the unwanted appointees would be immediately dropped -- a crucial question, given that the medical board has disciplinary hearings scheduled Friday. The Scott letter didn't make that clear. A press-office aide reached Thursday morning said she didn't know but would try to find out.

Shortly after that, a Health Department spokeswoman sent an e-mail saying that the board members will be allowed to stay at their posts at least temporarily.

Meanwhile, AHCA Interim Secretary Liz Dudek was at her office, which indicates that she, too, is being allowed to stay on at least temporarily.

The announcement came in the form of a brief letter from Scott to Senate President Mike Haridopolos withdrawing the names of 154 appointees awaiting Senate confirmation, all holdover appointments from Former Gov. Charlie Crist.

The medical-board leaders whose names were withdrawn are Drs. Michael Chizner of Broward County, the chairman, and Vice-Chair George Thomas of Bradenton. They were elected to lead the board this year under the assumption that their renominations for a second term would go through. Their first terms expired Oct. 31.

Scott's letter to Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, offered no reason for withdrawing the appointments.

Dr. Thomas, the vice chair of the board, said that Scott may prefer to have "his own people" apply for the seat, but said he has filled out an application for renomination. "This is something I love to do," he said.

Wednesday's action wasn't the first time the Board of Medicine suffered collateral damage from one of Scott's sweeping edicts. His first one, which froze all rule-making for a year, hobbled the board in its attempt to crack down on unscrupulous pain clinics.

Six months in the making, the rules were just days away from going into effect when the Legislature put them on hold pending an economic-impact study. That study had already begun when Scott took office and froze all rule-making.

On Jan. 21, after reviewing the economic-impact study, the Board of Medicine approved the pain-clinic rules and voted to ask the governor and Legislature to let them take effect because they were a key to cracking down on "pill mills."

That conference call was Dr. Chizner's first opportunity to chair a meeting. Friday's meeting in Orlando will be his first chance to preside over disciplinary hearings.

Crist named Dudek acting secretary after the Aug. 31 retirement of Tom Arnold. Like Arnold, Dudek had been a state health official for many years; she was Deputy Secretary for the Division of Health Quality Assurance before temporarily taking the helm. When Scott was elected, she asked to stay on.

A Scott spokesman left open the possibility that some of those on the list might be renominated, the St. Petersburg Times reported. "Gov. Scott is taking a look at these appointments," Brian Hughes reportedly said. "This is consistent with his effort to assess the rules, regulations and contracts of the previous administration."

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.