MEDICAL MALPRACTICE: Groups Back ‘Full-Disclosure’ for Doctors
Spurred by revelations about physician malpractice, some of New York's most powerful union and consumer groups have backed state legislation that would expose doctors' "secret" malpractice histories, the New York Daily News reports. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D) introduced a bill that would disclose the frequency and relative amount of malpractice payments made by physicians. The United Federation of Teachers, the AARP and the New York Public Interest Research Group all support the proposal. In the Senate, Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon (R) offered two bills: one is identical to Gottfried's legislation but the second proposal, sharply criticized by consumer groups, would create a "physician-dominated" panel structure to determine what information would be released. Hannon said he plans to drop those provisions. "I'm putting both bills on the committee agenda," he said, explaining that "there are elements in both that are good." Hannon and state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R) had refused to attack the issue in the past, bowing to the powerful medical lobby, but the senators reversed their position following recent investigations into New York's medical profession. "We're very interested in a result ... But the real question is where is the governor on this issue, and he hasn't told us," Bruno spokesperson John McCardell said. Gov. George Pataki (R) refused to comment on the issue (Buettner/Sherman, 5/28).
Same Tune, Different State
In Illinois, two public interest groups, the Coalition for Consumer Rights and Families Advocating Injury Reduction, are calling for the state Department of Professional Regulation to provide "full information" about doctors' professional histories and investigate complaints more aggressively, the Peoria Journal Star reports. "We feel (DPR) should work more to protect the patient than to protect negligent doctors," FAIR President Ruth Wyman said, complaining that the agency refuses to provide information about revoked hospital privileges or disciplinary records from other states. "They make it sound as if you can't get any information at all about your doctor, and that's not true," DPR spokesperson Tony Sanders countered. The consumer groups support "patient right-to-know" laws that would open records to patients, but Sanders argues that these provisions would tally millions of dollars in administrative costs. Last Thursday, the state Legislative Audit Commission met to discuss DPR's practices. The commission found the agency "didn't investigate complaints rapidly enough" and has not developed proper redress for patient complaints (Colindres, 5/24).
Not in Alabama
Consumer advocates down south are whistling a different tune as the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners is now posting disciplinary news on its web site, www.albme.org. Larry Dixon, executive director of the medical examiners said that consumers can "check a personal physician, access board rules, see how to file a complaint and see board opinions on issues" at the site. Dixon hopes the site will save both his organization and the public time. "This eliminates a great deal of paperwork and telephone time, allowing employees to better utilize their time in assisting the board in protecting the public," Dixon said. Disciplinary actions against physicians and physicians assistants, including suspension and probation of licenses, are included (Park, Birmingham Business Journal, 5/29).