Veterinary Medical Board Releases Sunset Review Report

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By Christine Lambert

On December 1, 2019, the Veterinary Medical Board (VMB) published its Sunset Review Report in preparation for VMB’s Sunset Review Oversight hearing before the Assembly Business and Professions Committee and the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee. VMB’s enabling act, section 4800, et seq. of the Business and Professions Code is scheduled to “sunset” or be repealed on January 1, 2021, if it is not extended during sunset review.

VMB’s report includes a summary of the Board’s activities over the past four years, updates the legislature regarding issues raised during its previous sunset review, and identifies 11 new issues the Board would like the legislature to consider during this sunset review period.

Of note, VMB seeks an amendment to section 4873 of the Business and Professions Code to require that participants of the Board’s Diversion Program pay for the administrative costs of the program rather than a flat fee, which the statute currently caps at $4,000. The Board’s Diversion Program seeks to rehabilitate veterinarians and registered veterinary technicians (RVT) with dangerous drug or alcohol use that affects their competency. According to the Board, the Diversion Program costs a total of approximately $16,000 per participant for a three-year program (the minimum). Currently, participants pay a flat fee of $2,000, while the Board pays the remaining $14,000. While VMB recognizes that it may increase the participant’s portion of the fee to its statutory maximum, it requests that the statute be amended to require participants to pay administrative costs for the Diversion Program instead of a flat fee.

Also of note, VMB seeks a legislative change to section 4883 of the Business and Professions Code to clarify that making any statement, claim, or advertisement that a veterinarian or RVT is a specialist or is Board certified, unless they are certified by an American Veterinary Medical Association recognized Veterinary Specialty Organization, would constitute a violation of the Veterinary Medical Practice Act. According to the report, this change is important to ensure that the public will not be misled by “specialty” claims by veterinarians who are not actually certified specialists. For a complete list of new issues, see section 12 of the report.

In preparation for VMB’s Joint Sunset Review Oversight hearing, committee staff issued a background paper for members of the respective Business and Professions committees, which provides background about the Board, updates the committees on the changes and improvements VMB made regarding the 12 issues from the previous sunset review and identifies 28 new issues to raise with VMB during the sunset review process.

Of note, the legislature asks whether the caps for licensing fee increases should be raised again, as the Board is now charging licensees the statutory maximums. The legislature raises the concern of some stakeholders, that the fees are now burdensome, particularly to RVTs, and requests that VMB provide projections for the next anticipated fee increase and its impact on licensees.

Also of note, the legislature seeks a report from VMB with respect to its short term and long term strategies to mitigate the issue of the large enforcement backlogs. VMB has the power to investigate complaints in order to enforce the Veterinary Medicine Practice Act. The Board currently has 1,900 pending cases with only four analysts. With this backlog, formal discipline can take up to three years. The legislature requests that VMB detail how additional resources if granted, would be used to reduce the backlog, as well as to fill any vacancies in the current Enforcement Unit.

Among other issues, the background paper also asks the Board to address its efforts to regulate the RVT profession, including its opinion as to whether RVTs are adequately represented on the Board; severe delays in licensing timelines; the Veterinary Assistant Controlled Substances Permit program; standards of care for animal shelters; animal physical rehabilitation standards and scope of practice; and possible legislative action regarding animal cannabis issues. For a complete list of new issues, see page 12 of the paper.

The Joint Sunset Review Oversight Hearing was scheduled for March 17, 2020, but was postponed due to COVID-19. The hearing will be rescheduled when the legislature reopens. At this writing, the hearing has not yet been rescheduled.

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