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NYS Governor Paterson Proposes Legislation to Improve Patient Safety

paterson 2.jpgGovernor David A. Paterson today announced that he has proposed legislation that will dramatically improve patient safety, enhance the state’s authority in medical investigation and help to prevent future infection control violations. The Governor’s Program Bill will boost the physician disciplinary system and increase the authority of the Department of Health (DOH) in epidemiological investigations while also giving consumers access to more information about physicians, particularly those charged with misconduct.

The State Board for Professional Medical Conduct (Board), located within the DOH, investigates allegations of misconduct by physicians, physician assistants and specialist assistants through the Office for Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC). If OPMC recommends that charges be filed, licensees may request a hearing, and substantiated charges may result in penalties, including the revocation or suspension of a license.

“The physicians and other health care practitioners in New York State are among the best in the world. Nevertheless, there will always be a limited number of practitioners who fail to adhere to proper standards of care,” said Governor Paterson. “It is critical that our system of disciplining physicians be as strong as possible to ensure that cases of misconduct are uncovered, reported and acted upon – even as we remain mindful that persons charged with misconduct have a due process right to challenge such charges. The improved access to information will also lead to better health care for the entire State of New York.”

New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. said: “This bill strengthens patient safety by updating current law to the way medicine is practiced today. Thanks to Governor Paterson’s support, the State Health Department will have clearer authority and access to more information to assist in medical conduct investigations. Patients also benefit from access to more information about the physicians who provide their care.”

*This bill will enhance the existing system of professional discipline as follows:Identify potential misconduct by requiring OPMC to continuously review information about medical malpractice claims and payouts.

*Increase referrals to OPMC by requiring health plans and managed care organizations to report the termination of a physician contract premised on impairment or misconduct and require courts to report sentences imposed against physicians for criminal activity.

*Require the Board to make charges public when they are served upon a physician and make hearing determinations public when issued. A statement advising that the charges or determinations are subject to challenge by the physician will accompany the charges.

*Require physicians to more regularly update their physician profiles which contain information such as educational background, practice area, and legal actions (which are available to the public at by making these updates a condition of re-registration. Information about licensure actions is available through a link to the OPMC web site. The bill will require physicians to post in their offices an official OPMC poster containing information on how to access physician profiles and OPMC disciplinary actions.

*Require physicians who have lost their right to practice medicine to take steps to safeguard and make accessible the medical records of their former patients.

*Allow OPMC in certain circumstances to more easily obtain a physician’s own personal medical records if there is reason to believe that he or she may be impaired by alcohol, drugs, physical disability or mental disability.

*Authorize the Board to require an objective, impartial evaluation of a physician’s competency when called into question.

The bill also addresses public health issues concerning communicable diseases and infection control by increasing the State’s ability to disseminate information, enhance enforcement and training. The bill will:

*Authorize DOH to disclose information to the public as needed regarding public health threats that come to light in the course of an OMPC investigation, notwithstanding otherwise applicable confidentiality provisions.

*Authorize DOH to direct a physician to cease any activity uncovered during a communicable disease investigation that constitutes an imminent danger to health.

*Facilitate communicable disease investigations by providing that a failure to respond to communications, or provide records requested by the State or local health department in conjunction with such investigation, constitutes professional medical misconduct.

*Require physicians who practice in certain office-based surgery settings to report the transmission of health care disease upon learning of the transmission.

*Provide that course work or training in infection control practices, already required for physicians, physician assistants and specialist assistants, must also be completed by every medical student, medical resident and physician assistant student. The bill would also require that documentation of such training, which must be provided to DOH under current law, also attests to the practitioner’s competence in the course content.

*Require DOH to conduct a study and issue a report by January 1, 2009 as to whether restricting the use of multi-dose vials for the packaging of medications and requiring the use of disposable medical equipment engineered for single use is viable.

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