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New Hampshire AG calls for more transparency by state medical board, including possibly listing malpractice settlements of doctors

Recommendations come in the wake of a Globe Spotlight Team report about one surgeon’s pristine medical board record despite 21 malpractice settlements

Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H.Erin Clark / Globe Staff

The New Hampshire attorney general said the state should consider reforms that would give the public more information about potentially unsafe doctors, such as posting malpractice complaints and settlements, to better promote its “public protection mission.”

In a report released Friday, Attorney General John Formella’s office also recommended that the New Hampshire Board of Medicine, which oversees physicians, become more transparent by publicly posting the names of physicians who receive “letters of concern.” Such letters are currently confidential because they fall short of formal disciplinary actions, which are public, but suggest the board found problems related to medical care.


The AG launched the review after a Boston Globe Spotlight Team two-part series last September revealed that a New Hampshire cardiac surgeon, Dr. Yvon Baribeau, had a pristine record on the medical board website, despite having amassed one of the nation’s worst surgical malpractice records: 21 malpractice settlements connected to his work at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, including 14 cases in which he was accused of contributing to patients’ deaths.

Formella’s office did not fault the board’s past investigations or level of public disclosure regarding Baribeau specifically, saying it followed all current laws and rules. However, the report noted that “policymakers should consider reforms, such as greater transparency in the disciplinary process,” as well as other changes to bolster the board’s investigatory tools.

Baribeau’s attorney said Friday that he would not comment on the AG’s report. Catholic Medical Center spokeswoman Lauren Collins-Cline said that the hospital “appreciates the review process” and will “continue to follow reporting requirements.” Hospitals are required to inform the medical board when they take disciplinary actions against doctors, such as suspending them from practice.

The Globe reported last month that New Hampshire’s professional licensing agency has launched a broad investigation into whether former executives at CMC endangered public safety by failing to report all serious problems with Baribeau to the medical board that it is required to by law. The Spotlight team reported that hospital leaders knew for years how dangerous Baribeau had become, including hearing numerous complaints from top CMC physicians, but allowed him to continue to practice.


CMC officials have suggested their awareness of Baribeau’s problems was more limited, and that he was a safe surgeon who took on difficult cases that can have poor results. They said that 17 of the 21 malpractice settlements were settled after Baribeau had retired from medical practice in 2019, and no longer had an active license regulated by the board.

Still, records show both the hospital and the medical board had significant information about the ongoing concerns surrounding Baribeau prior to his retirement. The medical board investigated his care of patients at least twice over a decade, according to Baribeau’s license renewal applications and a CMC statement to the Globe, including problematic care related to surgeries for which CMC suspended him for 28 days.

All of this was invisible to anyone checking the medical board’s website.

The AG’s report indicated that the public should have more information about its doctors. “New Hampshire should seriously consider making one or more categories of complaints public,” including malpractice complaints and settlements. Regarding the “letters of concern,” the AG said the fact that they are not public may be one reason the board appears to act on complaints at such a low rate compared to its peers in other states.


Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group, found that the New Hampshire medical board had the lowest rate of serious disciplinary actions against doctors of any state between 2017 and 2019, the years the organization studied.

The medical board declined to tell the Globe whether it ever issued Baribeau a “letter of concern.”

The AG also recommended that policymakers consider giving the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification, which oversees the medical board, the power to temporarily take over investigations from the board if it fails to properly do its job protecting the public, or doesn’t have enough resources.

Also following the Globe’s series, CMC’s board of trustees hired an outside law firm last October to investigate how the hospital oversees patient care. The trustees have not yet announced results of that probe.

Liz Kowalczyk can be reached at