Obama Administration Must Make Disciplinary Records of Nurses, Health Workers Available to Hospitals, Nursing Homes

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Obama Administration Must Make Disciplinary Records of Nurses, Health Workers Available to Hospitals, Nursing Homes

Public Citizen Urges Secretary Sebelius to Protect Patients from Unsafe and Unscrupulous Health Care Workers

WASHINGTON - More than 22 years after the federal government started
tracking serious disciplinary actions against non-physician health
workers, the infractions - everything from fraud and abuse to
improperly prescribing drugs - are still kept secret from most
hospitals and many nursing homes doing background checks of potential
employees, according to a letter Public Citizen sent today to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank
contains discipline records for more than 100,000 nurses, physician
assistants, pharmacists and other non-physician health workers.
However, HHS has failed to finalize a regulation that would implement a
1987 law that would allow access to the records to more than 5,000 U.S.
hospitals and about 700 nursing homes.

"Many of these workers would not have jobs in the
health care field if their current employers knew about their checkered
pasts," said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, M.D., director of Public Citizen's
Health Research Group. "Keeping these records secret greatly increases
the chance that patients will be injured or killed at the hands of
their caretakers."

Today's letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius points out that as of Dec. 31, 2007, the health care data base listed:

  • More than 40,000 nurses sanctioned for health
    care-related violations, including unsafe practice or substandard care
    (23,551 reports), misconduct or abuse (10,930 reports),
    fraud/deception/misrepresentation (3,437 reports), and improper
    prescribing/dispensing/administering drugs (7,526 reports).
  • More than 49,000 licensed practical nurses and nurse
    aides sanctioned for health care related violations such as unsafe
    practice or substandard care (16,110 reports), misconduct or abuse
    (12,197 reports), fraud/deception/misrepresentation (4,247 reports),
    and improper prescribing/dispensing/administering drugs (4,634 reports).

HHS and the Office of Management and Budget should
immediately issue the Section 1921 regulation, which would allow
hospitals and nursing homes to access the information in the health
care database, Wolfe said.

READ the letter to Sebelius.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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