Two years after the start of the pandemic, doctors around the country are beginning to face discipline for contributing to false or misleading information about COVID-19. From questioning vaccines to promoting bogus or unproven treatments, according to the Federation of State Medical Boards, so far at least 12 state medical boards have taken disciplinary action against doctors for spreading false or misleading information.
But Investigative Reporter Katie LaGrone discovered Florida is not among them.
In fact, after analyzing Florida Board of Medicine disciplinary records and complaints filed since the beginning of the pandemic, LaGrone and her photographer, Matthew Apthorp, confirmed the state hasn’t disciplined a single doctor for anything related to COVID-19 because not a single COVID-related incident involving a doctor has been brought to the Board’s attention.
“It does seem a little unusual that after two years there hasn’t been a case that’s been prosecuted that I’m aware of,” said Dr. Steven Rosenberg, a West Palm Beach Dermatologist who, for years served on the state’s Board of Medicine. Today, he chairs one of the Board’s probable cause panels which review complaints against doctors to determine if the case should be dismissed or if it warrants potential disciplinary action by the Board of Medicine.
To date, Rosenberg said he hasn’t seen a case involving a doctor and COVID make it to his panel or the Board.
“It’s unusual. I would have anticipated that by now we should be seeing some cases either in probable cause or even at the Board of Medicine,” said Rosenberg, who added that cases typically take 3 to 6 months to be investigated before it reaches a probable cause panel like his.
When asked what the public should take away from the fact that no doctor has been disciplined over a COVID related-issue in Florida, Rosenberg responded “it just depends on whether complaints have been filed or not and what the nature of those complaints are,” he said.
But that information isn’t public.
Florida’s Department of Health doesn’t release complaints until 10 days after probable cause is found. Without probable cause, any complaints against doctors regarding COVID-related issues will remain secret from the public unless the person who files one speaks out.
Janet Bryan, a health professional in Sarasota County, filed a complaint back in September against Dr. Dan Busch, a chiropractor in Venice. Busch made headlines back in the fall for his involvement in signing school mask exemption forms and, allegedly, handing them out like candy without properly evaluating the children he was signing exemptions for. As a result, the Sarasota County school district adopted new rules at the time barring him and chiropractors from being eligible to sign off on exemption forms.
Today, Dr. Busch’s state license remains clear and active. A spokesperson with Florida’s Department of Health confirmed the department has not filed any formal documents charging any doctor, including chiropractors, for anything concerning COVID mask exemption forms.
Janet Bryan called it “ridiculous.” To date, she said, she hasn’t received a call about the complaint she filed. E-mails to Busch’s attorney remain unanswered.
Dr. Rosenberg added that he, too, had filed a complaint against a Florida doctor early on in the pandemic. Rosenberg, who wouldn’t name the doctor, said it he was alarmed when the doctor was, allegedly, offering unproven COVID-19 cures through vitamin C IV treatments. But Rosenberg filed his complaint nearly two years ago and to date, he hasn’t heard a thing from the state or the board.
“It may still be under investigation, I don’t know,” he said. When asked if it was normal for a complaint to take two years to be investigated, Rosenberg replied, “that would be unusual,” he said.
All of this is in the background of a state whose Governor, Ron DeSantis, touts as “free” where rules around COVID are more lax. DeSantis’ handpicked new Surgeon General, Dr. Jospeh Ladapo, has been criticized for also adopting looser rules around COVID. Ladapo has been widely criticized for backing several controversial COVID treatments, he recently adopted more relaxed testing policies in the state and during a confirmation hearing just this week, Senate Democrats walked out of the meeting after growing frustrated with his lack of straight answers including about whether he thought vaccines were effective. Ladapo eventually conceded that vaccines were highly effective in preventing hospitalizations related to COVID.
In her interview with Dr. Rosenberg, LaGrone asked if the lack of COVID-related disciplinary cases against Florida doctors reveal a state unwilling to discipline doctors over questionable COVID activity. In response, Rosenberg said, “I don’t think I can really comment on that. I know the Board of Medicine takes it very seriously when any kind of inappropriate medical care or judgment is being offered,” he said.