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AGO 1951 No. 029 - April 30, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

INDUSTRIAL INSURANCE ‑- MEDICAL AID ‑- EMPLOYMENT OF PHYSICIAN AND SURGEON ‑- SALARY.

The Department of Labor and Industries may employ a physician and surgeon to assist in administering medical aid, and such physician and surgeon may be paid from the medical aid fund.

                                                                   - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                   April 30, 1951

Honorable A. M. Johnson, Director
Department of Labor and Industries
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 29

Attention:  John Shaughnessy

Dear Sir:

            In your letter of April 20, 1951, you requested our opinion on the following question:

            May a physician and surgeon be employed by the department of labor and industries to assist in administering the medical aid provisions of the act as required by statute, and may such physician and surgeon be paid from the medical aid fund?

            Our conclusion may be summarized as follows:

            The Department of Labor and Industries may employ a physician and surgeon to assist in administering medical aid, and such physician and surgeon may be paid from the medical aid fund.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Prior to 1921 the state medical aid board was charged with the duty of administering medical aid.  Its duties were prescribed in Rem. Rev. Stat. § 7715:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "A board is hereby created to be known as the state medical aid board, hereinafter designated as the state board, which shall have power and whose duty it shall be to from time to time establish and promulgate printed forms, rules, regulations and practices for the furnishing of such care, treatment and services to workmen.  * * *"

            In 1921 the legislature abolished the state medical aid board by Rem. Rev. Stat. § 10893, which provides:

            "From and after the thirty-first day of March, 1921, the following offices, boards, commissions, bureaus, and departments of the state government heretofore created by law shall be and are hereby abolished, viz.:  * * * the medical aid board * * *"

            and the duties theretofore performed by the state medical aid board devolved upon the director of labor and industries by Rem. Rev. Stat. § 10836, which provides:

            "The director of labor and industries shall have the power, and it shall be his duty, through and by means of the division of industrial insurance:

            "* * *

            "(2) To exercise all the powers and perform all the duties now vested in, and required to be performed by, the state medical aid board;'

            "* * *

            "(5) To exercise such other powers and perform such other duties as may be provided by law."

            The same session of the legislature prescribed certain duties of the director in the management and supervision of the department by Rem. Rev. Stat. § 7703, as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "The director of labor and industries shall, in accordance with the provisions of this act:

            "* * *

            "(4) Supervise the medical, surgical and hospital treatment to the intent that same may be in all cases efficient and up to the recognized standard of modern surgery."

            The director has additional duties in regard to the administration of the medical aid, as shown by Rem. Rev. Stat. § 7719, as follows:

            "It shall be the duty of the director of labor and industries, through and by means of the division of industrial insurance to provide care and treatment for each workman injured after June 30, 1923, in extrahazardous employment, to make a record of the commencement of every disability, and the termination of the same and subject to the provisions of section 7716 to certify all bills rendered for care or treatment of injured workmen, with power to reject any bill or item thereof incurred in violation of the principles laid down in section 7715, or the rules and regulations promulgated thereunder."

            and by Rem. Rev. Stat. § 7715, as follows:

            "* * * Such rules, regulations and practices may vary between the different localities and industries, but shall be in accordance with the rule established in section 7712, and with the principle that the injured workman shall have the most prompt and efficient care and treatment at the least cost consistent with promptness and efficiency, without discrimination or favoritism, and with as great uniformity as the various and diverse [divers] surrounding circumstances and locations of industries will permit.  The * * * [director] shall make and from time to time change as may  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] be, and shall promulgate a fee bill of the maximum charges to be made by any physician, surgeon, hospital, druggist or other agency or person rendering services to injured workmen.  * * *"

            The duties of the director as set out in these statutes are of such a nature that their proper administration requires knowledge peculiar to the field of medicine and surgery.  Only a physician and surgeon is qualified to "Supervise the medical, surgical and hospital treatment to the intent that same may be in all cases efficient and up to the recognized standard of modern surgery" and to advise in the promulgation of "rules, regulations and practices * * * with the principle that the injured workman shall have the most prompt and efficient care and treatment at the least cost consistent with promptness and efficiency * * *."

            Rem. Rev. Stat. § 7713 creates a medical aid fund:

            "A fund is hereby created in the state treasury to be known as the medical aid fund.  * * *"

            The expense of administering the provisions for medical aid are to be paid from the medical aid fund as provided by Rem. Rev. Stat. § 7725, as follows:

            "* * * Disbursements for medical aid administrative expense * * * shall be made by warrants drawn against the medical aid fund by the state auditor upon certificate thereof or requisition therefor by the department."

            It is our opinion that the department of labor and industries may employ a physician and surgeon to assist in administering medical aid and that such physician and surgeon may be paid from the medical aid fund.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

C. R. NELSON
Assistant Attorney General

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