Governor Proposes New Reforms for Boards That Oversee Health Workers
On Wednesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) pledged to enact broad reforms to state agencies that discipline health professionals accused of misconduct, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The proposed changes come on the heels of a recent investigation that found that the California Board of Registered Nursing takes an average of more than three years to settle misconduct complaints against nurses.
After the Times and the not-for-profit news organization ProPublica published the report, Schwarzenegger replaced most nursing board members and called for a review of all state licensing boards.
Reform Proposal Details
On Tuesday, Schwarzenegger appointed Brian Stiger as director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the state's health care licensing agencies.
At a special Wednesday meeting of the new nursing board, Stiger said the administration aims to overhaul the enforcement process for all licensing agencies and accelerate complaint resolution to a 12- to 18-month process. He added that the administration's reform proposals will focus on protecting consumers.
Some of the proposed changes include:
- Appointing an official to audit the boards;
- Enacting regulations to accelerate license suspension;
- Hiring more investigative and legal staff (Weber et al., Los Angeles Times, 8/13);
- Implementing a computer tracking system for case monitoring (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 8/13); and
- Charging higher licensing fees to fund the reforms.
Although the new nursing board members generally welcomed the governor's proposals, some questioned why the state had waited so long to enact reforms.
Others expressed doubt that the licensing agencies would have the capacity to meet a shorter timetable for complaint resolution.
In addition, nursing union representatives urged officials to end state-mandated furloughs for licensing board employees. Such agencies receive funding from licensing fees, not the state.
Additional Issues Brought to Light
The governor proposed the reforms on the same day that the state released information suggesting that the licensing boards take an average of more than two years to resolve complaints against all types of health professionals. ProPublica requested the release of the records.
On Wednesday, the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee also released a new report describing further problems with the state's licensing boards.Â The report found that investigators:
- Communicated ineffectively with the agencies;
- Failed to sufficiently prioritize complaints; and
- Lacked uniform standards for reviewing cases.