Dr. David Thorpe, a chiropractor from New York, has performed between 7,000 and 8,000 Department of Transportation physicals since the inception of the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners in 2014.
During that time, Thorpe said he has received no complaints from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regarding the quality of the physicals he’s performed.
Regardless, Thorpe and about 50 other chiropractors in New York were removed from the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners on June 1. The FMCSA sent certified emails to chiropractors, informing them that they are no longer allowed to perform DOT physicals.
“Effective as of the date of this letter (June 1), you are no longer certified to conduct medical examinations to determine whether commercial motor vehicle drivers meet FMCSA’s physical qualification standards,” the FMCSA wrote. “Your information will remain publicly available in the National Registry for three years, with a notice that you are no longer listed on the National Registry as of the date of the removal.”
The reason for the removal is based on the New York State Education Department’s interpretation of state law that DOT physicals are outside a chiropractor’s defined scope of practice in New York. The New York State Board for Chiropractic said the decision was based clearly on scope and not competency. Changing the scope in New York would need to be done legislatively, the state board said.
“I was in a state of shock,” Thorpe said when he learned about his removal from the registry. “I did not expect the FMCSA to do what they did, which is automatically remove us and not provide due process.”
While the chiropractors from New York have been removed from the registry, all of the medical certification cards they issued before the removal date are in good standing and will remain valid up to their expiration date.
“Chiropractors in New York have performed anywhere between 20,000 and 30,000 physicals in the last two years with no issue. And those physicals remain valid,” Thorpe said.
With the removal of about 50 doctors from the registry, Thorpe said New York’s shortage of certified medical examiners has only gotten worse.
“This not only affects the chiropractic (certified medical examiners) in the state significantly and financially, but this affects motor carriers,” Thorpe said. “Accessibility has just dropped. Companies must send their drivers 45 minutes away to have physicals. We already were a state that didn’t have enough medical examiners of all types.”
“I’m (having to turn) down 10-20 exams per day, plus the accounts that I do on site,” Thorpe said.
Thorpe said the decrease in competition and the increase in demand have already led to some CMEs increasing the price of a physical examination.
The Safe Drivers, Safe Roads Coalition and its website were formed to combat the decision in New York, as well to protect other states from suffering the same fate.
“We have evidence that there is a movement afloat currently, that elements of the medical profession are attempting to have chiropractic removed from participation in the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners,” the website states. “They initially attempted this through actively lobbying the FMCSA back in 2005. That was obviously unsuccessful. In recent years, their attempts have focused on challenging the chiropractic profession state by state.”
Thorpe, who is president of the Safe Drivers, Safe Roads Coalition and the American Chiropractic Board of Occupational Health, said there is concern that the attempt to remove chiropractors from the registry could spread to other states.
The coalition’s first steps are to try and set up meetings with the state board in order to resolve the issue. If that’s unsuccessful, the coalition may need to take alternative measures.
“We’re prepared to do everything, including any form of legal approach to deal with this,” Thorpe said.
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