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Arizona law proposal would let public know more about doctor misconduct.

Updated: Feb 14



By Andrew Ford - Aziona Republic - 24.01.2024 - [USA] - [PREVENTION]

One state lawmaker is stalling a reform that would let Arizonans see whether their doctor has committed serious misconduct on the job, like sexual abuse and violence.

Rep. Laurin Hendrix, R-Gilbert, has given little explanation for his opposition to House Bill 2312.

An Arizona Republic investigation found records about doctors who removed a patient’s ovaries without consent and showed up to work under the influence of alcohol — among other issues — were kept by the Arizona Medical Board.

But the board is prevented by law from posting that information online — a restriction the bill would end. I don’t see this bill solving the problem that you’re describing,” Hendrix said in late January.

Many members of the public seem to disagree: More than 150 citizens have expressed formal support for the measure at the Capitol. Still, Hendrix has refused to give the bill a hearing — a critical step for any proposed legislation. “I hate to disparage a colleague,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Patricia Contreras, D-Phoenix. “He just is not interested in making sure that people are protected.” Hendrix wouldn’t explain his reasoning further to The Republic. He didn’t respond to several additional inquiries. And he expelled a reporter from his committee room on Wednesday, threatening to call security.

“Stop bothering me,” he said, when asked about the proposed law before a hearing on other bills. “Now. Leave.”

How bill would give the public more information on doctors

The state Medical Board is allowed to post records about discipline for doctors that cover only the past five years. State law also prohibits the board from posting “advisory letters.” The letters are the most common action that board members take for doctors accused of misconduct and also the least harsh action short of dismissing a complaint. The board’s website gives no indication of whether doctors have such letters in their files, and members of the public would have to submit a records request to obtain them. The letters can describe vivid misbehaviour. The Republic found some doctors written up for misconduct such as being impaired while on-call or inadequate removal of a brain tumor.

The bill would require the board to post records for the past 25 years and it would mandate the posting of the advisory letters for the same amount of time. Scores of citizens formally signed on in favour of the change, and only one against, the Arizona Legislature’s site showed Wednesday afternoon.

The leader of a health insurance trade association said the organization didn’t have a position on the bill, but he supported greater transparency. “From my perspective, more disclosure and background in the medical profession is certainly helpful for consumers,” said Chad Heinrich, president and CEO of Arizonans for Affordable Health Coverage. One of the trade association’s members, UnitedHealth Group, is a donor to Hendrix. “Having easier access to that information could also be helpful for the health insurers as we do due diligence in researching the background on doctors before we put them into our network,” Heinrich said.

Partisan politics could help explain the opposition — Hendrix is a Republican and the bill is sponsored by Democrats. Democrat-backed bills often fail to receive a hearing as Republicans control all of the committees due to their one-seat majority. ‘Get out of the way and let somebody else fix it’ Contreras filed the bill after The Republic’s investigation of the state Medical Board’s shortcomings in handling claims of sexual misconduct. The story featured the account of Meredith Younce, who said she was abused by her Casa Grande doctor at an appointment in the 1990s. Younce told The Republic she also tried to reach Hendrix to ask about the bill but got no response. “You are part of the problem,” she said of Hendrix. “And if you don’t want to fix it, get out of the way and let somebody else fix it.”

Some change could still happen, though.

After The Republic highlighted the state Medical Board’s shortcomings, Gov. Katie Hobbs in her budget asked for two additional investigators, which the board discussed at a recent meeting.

The board’s interim deputy director also said she is working on other improvements to the handling of sexual misconduct claims. She said she is planning to shore up how the board interacts with law enforcement, including a meeting in Mesa, and plans to make a video to show patients how to file a complaint. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can contact Dignity4Patients, whose helpline is open Monday to Thursday 10am to 4pm.


 

 

Dignity4Patients Commentary: In order to promote transparency, ensure patient safety, and address the issue of problematic healthcare professionals, it is essential for all Medical Councils and Healthcare Regulatory Bodies to establish a system for identifying and publishing individuals who pose a risk to patients. Those who engage in sexual abuse or serious misconduct that could harm children and vulnerable adults should be publicly listed to safeguard the well-being of all. This measure is necessary to protect the interests of patients and ensure a safe healthcare environment.


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