Sunset Staff Reports of Other Boards: State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners
Written by Editor   
Friday, November 11, 2016 12:00 AM

As an illustration of how the Sunset Staff Report can cause potential harm to a profession,

The review of the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners found an agency struggling after a difficult biennium that stretched its resources and abilities, almost to the breaking point. … The agency is small, with a sta  of 20 and a budget of about $1.1 million, but it has a large mission — licensing veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and equine dental providers, and regulating all aspects of veterinary medical care.”

“In 2015, the agency was overwhelmed by an unprecedented number of complaints — approximately 750against a single licensee whose grisly social media post about killing a cat with a bow and arrow resulted in a national media storm.  The sheer volume of complaints and ensuing investigation required a disproportionate share of staff  and resources for just one of the several hundred cases the agency investigates over the course of a year. At the same time, the agency mired itself in a legal battle after initiating enforcement action against an animal shelter veterinarian, an action the courts determined to be outside the agency’s statutory authority.  The results of this case have reverberated throughout the Texas veterinary profession and limited the agency’s authority to regulate some of its own licensees.
"Most concerning are the agency’s significant administrative and operational challenges. Specifically, poor  financial management and data reliability problems were pervasive throughout the review.  The departure of the agency’s tenured chief  Fiscal officer in October 2015 left the agency in financial disarray.  The agency was unable to reliably provide basic  financial information. Likewise, the review found the agency could not provide with a reasonable degree of confidence and consistency some of the most basic enforcement data such as number of licensees inspected and number of complaints resolved.  These informational black holes were, at least partially, due to the agency’s enforcement database being unable to deliver reliable information that accurately reflects the agency’s enforcement activities.”

"The agency and the profession have experienced growing pains as the tools and practices of veterinary medicine have expanded and changed over time. Longstanding cultural norms within the profession have not always matured with this growth. Among these changes, veterinarians are relative newcomers to the  eld of controlled substances oversight and regulation, the risks of which both the profession and oversight agencies have not adequately recognized or addressed. With more than 6,300 veterinarians able to dispense controlled substances, greater oversight is warranted.  However, the activities of the agency are distinct from those of human healthcare regulatory agencies, limiting opportunities for consolidation within that realm.  Federal and state legal structures that govern human health care do not apply to the veterinary profession.”

Given the raft of problems identifed in this report, a six-year continuation will ensure closer legislative oversight and attention to the question of whether the agency will be able to resolve its considerable management and administrative problems on its own."

However, the regulatory activities of the agency’s licensees are distinct from those of other regulated healthcare professionals such as physicians, dentists, podiatrists, nurses and chiropractors, and the regulation of veterinary medicine does not involve the same level of risk to public health and safety. Agencies regulating human healthcare professionals protect the public by regulating the practitioners who directly treat their clients.  This agency regulates practitioners whose clients are actually the owners of their patients. Additionally, federal and state legal structures that govern human healthcare often do not apply to the veterinary profession. For example, laws governing human healthcare costs, insurance, medical facilities, patient con dentiality, and patient medical records, among others, either differ significantly or do not apply to veterinarians, limiting the benefit of regulating veterinarians in an umbrella structure with human healthcare occupations that share these concerns and rules.”

Sunset staff observations and comments from stakeholders responding to a Sunset staff survey indicate many veterinarians do not believe diversion of controlled substances is a problem in the Texas veterinary profession, contrary to the position of the Texas Legislature, State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, and DEA. However, data gathered through this review demonstrates veterinarians are at significant risk of contributing to drug diversion. Facing this pervasive apathy, the agency struggles to adequately communicate to licensees the liabilities, responsibilities, and risks when keeping an inventory of controlled substances under a DEA registration. Unlike the Texas State Board of Pharmacy, which also enforces controlled substance regulations, the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners does not provide significant educational opportunities or materials to help licensees understand their obligations. Opportunities available to pharmacists include agency sponsored continuing education courses, in-person presentations, webinars, educational materials such as videos and slide presentations, and newsletters explaining rule and statute changes in plain language. In contrast, the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners generally relies on state and local veterinary associations to educate or update the licensee population on controlled substance regulations.”