The Medical Board of California brought their first in-person Quarterly Board meeting, since the pandemic, to Los Angeles this month. Consumer Watchdog and our team of volunteer advocates participated in person and by teleconference line to voice our support of a Patient Bill of Rights, proposed legislative changes that would require the board to investigate all quality-of-care death and serious bodily injury complaints, and other consumer protections.
Consumer Watchdog and its volunteer team of advocates have spent the past three years advocating for legislative and policy changes to improve the medical board’s enforcement program. As the staff member who works directly with our volunteer team of advocates and as an advocate myself, the fight for legal rights for California patients and their families in the enforcement process is very personal to me. I join many of the members of our team who are committed to this advocacy because my consumer death complaint, much like the majority of our advocates, was also dismissed without an investigation, with no interview, and no input from me. Fourteen of us came forward offering compelling testimony in person and by teleconference line yet the medical board rejected our pleas for action. Although three board members voted to delay the acceptance of the medical board’s sunset review report until they discussed other legislative priorities, with 3 public board members absent the medical board voted to move forward with their sunset report without accepting any of our legislative priorities. The public’s voice was not considered in a process where the board is preparing to face legislative evaluation of their commitment to consumer protection. The medical board, once again, failed the public.
With sunset review pending, legislative priorities to include in the sunset review report to the legislature was the primary issue at the December medical board meeting drawing testimony from our strong team of advocates. Consumer Watchdog and the advocacy team focused on several legislative priorities that would provide some rights for California patients and their families. One priority was the right for a complainant or surviving family member to be interviewed by board staff before their consumer complaint is dismissed. Over 50 percent of consumer complaints are dismissed at the Central Complaint Unit before they ever reach an investigator with no input or interview of the complainant or family. A required interview would provide an opportunity for families to provide additional information and provide needed input. I know it would have made a difference in my death complaint. During my testimony, I held up a picture of my late husband-to-be Lloyd Monserratt. I wanted the board to see what a dismissed complaint looked like. I explained to them that our family deaths are not mere patient numbers or control numbers. They are people that are loved and honored and cherished and people who contributed greatly to our state. All of the family members who we have lost and those who are still with us but suffer from catastrophic harm deserve to have equal rights in this process and that starts with a required interview and consumer input into the enforcement process.
Another of our legislative priorities focused on the board to change their complaint investigation guidelines to match other licensing boards to ensure that quality-of-care death and serious bodily injury complaints be referred for investigation. Many Californians may be surprised to know that if you die in a car accident or on a city street that your death will be investigated but if you die in a hospital or a medical institution your death, in most cases, will not be investigated. This needs to change.
At the last legislative oversight sunset review of the medical board, we moved the medical board to seek legislation to change their board composition from a physician majority to a public board member majority, cost recovery for the medical board, and other policy changes.
The Medical Board of California just faced their last legislative oversight sunset review hearings in March and May of last year. Given the number of issues the legislature had with the medical board, the board was given a two-year sunset review instead of the standard four year review. The legislature will be evaluating the medical board, it’s enforcement and licensing programs, and their ability to protect consumers during oversight hearings once again early next year and we will be there to ensure that the public’s voice is heard.
During the meeting, Public Board Member Whistleblower TJ Watkins presented his Accountability Act which would provide legal rights in the enforcement process for complainants and surviving family members that file consumer complaints. Many of Consumer Watchdog’s legislative priorities were included in the Accountability Act. Having met with Mr. Watkins in the months leading to the meetings, Consumer Watchdog and its volunteer team of advocates played a role in the creation of the legislative priorities and supported the Accountability Act during the December medical board meeting.
Consumer Watchdog and our volunteer team of advocates will continue to push our legislative priorities as we prepare to address the legislature during legislative oversight review hearings, in medical board meetings, and in meetings with legislators.
Learn more at the links below:
Consumer Watchdog’s press release for the December Medical Board meeting.
Read the KTLA story on the medical board meeting.