Sacramento, CA – Legislation to improve physician oversight and give consumers rights at the Medical Board of California was approved by the state Senate 32-1 this week and moves ahead to the Assembly.
The bill, SB 815 by Senator Richard Roth and Assemblymember Marc Berman, contains patient safety reforms long sought by patient advocates and Consumer Watchdog that would:
- Ensure the board gets all the facts of a case by requiring an interview of the patient, or family member, before their complaint is closed. Most complaints are closed with no interview.
- Change the balance of power at the board by increasing its public members to 9, while retaining the board’s medical expertise with 8 physician members.
- Give patients a voice by allowing them to make a victim impact statement the board, and creating a Complainant Liason Unit.
- Bring down California’s standard of proof for most doctor discipline, in line with that used by 41 other state medical boards.
- Improve procedures at the Board that cause delays and unnecessary costs, including: a pause on the statute of limitations when doctors fight subpoenas; consequences for doctors who refuse interviews or coerce patients into not testifying; and longer wait times, and Board reimbursement, for petitions to reinstate a revoked license.
- And, Fully fund the Board’s operations. Doctor licensing fees that fund the Board have increased just $80 in the past 17 years. Without new funding, the Board faces insolvency and will be unable to meet its patient protection mission.
“SB 815’s requirement for an interview is an important step in holding doctors accountable and will help restore the rights of injured patients. We deserve to be heard,” said San Francisco advocate Alka Airy, who lost her sister to medical negligence. The Board closed her complaint regarding her sister’s doctors without ever speaking with her.
“An interview would have allowed me to share the humanity in my sister, and the results of my own investigation involving records the hospital withheld that would have helped investigators identify specific departures from the standard of care,” said Airy. View Shilpa Airy’s story.
“I have participated in medical board meetings to advocate for a public board member majority because we need a more diverse group of board members representing the interests of California patients,” stated advocate Kimberly Turbin from Los Angeles, who experienced obstetric violence during the birth of her first son.
“I have learned that the board makes decisions that impact every aspect of my office and hospital visit and I want the majority of board members to understand what it means to be a regular person in a doctor’s office,” said Turbin. View Kimberly Turbin’s story.
Hear the testimony of many of the patients advocating for change here and read their stories, and those of their loved ones, here.
Among the gaps in the bill are increased disclosure of doctors’ histories to patients, and ending the inefficiencies caused by splitting Medical Board investigators and prosecutors in two different agencies, said Consumer Watchdog.
Read more about the need for greater transparency and improving Board investigations.
Read Consumer Watchdog’s sunset review letter to the Senate and Assembly Medical Board oversight committees here.