Santa Monica, CA – The California Medical Board took four years to suspend the license of a Central Valley doctor who gave drugs and alcohol to minors, more evidence that doctors are unaccountable when they harm patients and the public in California, said Consumer Watchdog.
A Dinuba family medicine physician, Dr. Ronald Ruminson, admitted to having bought marijuana and alcohol for minors, holding parties for them in his home, and texting inappropriate sexual images. The incidents happened in early 2009, but the Medical Board acted just last week to suspend his license and place him on probation.
Nearly 38 years ago, the medical lobby promised the legislature that, in return for limiting patients’ right to sue negligent doctors, the Medical Board would enact a strong regulatory system to ensure patient safety. The Dinuba incident is only the most recent example of four decades of failure by the Board to live up to that promise to protect patients and discipline dangerous doctors, said Consumer Watchdog.
“People are being hurt and killed because dangerous doctors don’t answer to anyone in California,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog. “The only way to prevent more needless injuries and deaths is to fix the mistakes made nearly 38 years ago that limited physician accountability and created the incompetent Medical Board that is failing patients today.”
A coalition including Consumer Watchdog and NetZero pioneer Bob Pack announced a patient safety ballot measure in front of the Capitol last week that will lift a nearly 38-year-old law that caps victims’ recovery and protects doctors from being held accountable in court. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has promised hearings into the law. The initiative will move forward if the legislature fails to act.
The law, signed when Jerry Brown was last governor, prevents doctors from being held accountable when they harm or even kill patients. Pack lost his two young children in an accident after a drug abuser obtained narcotics due to reckless prescribing, and learned that the value of his children’s lives was limited to $250,000 by the cap.
The Medical Board is under tough scrutiny in the legislature after a Los Angeles Times series uncovered a patient safety crisis, including identifying more than five dozen physicians whose prescriptions were connected with three or more overdose deaths and had never been disciplined.
Senator Curren Price and Assemblyman Richard Gordon have proposed legislation that would vacate the Medical Board if it does not provide a plan to overhaul its failed oversight and enforcement.
The proposed ballot measure would: Lift the nearly 38-year-old cap on victims’ recovery; overhaul the Medical Board by replacing its members, requiring full public disclosure of all physician complaints and removing its investigatory authority; fully fund and require proactive use of the CURES prescription drug database; and, require all physicians to undergo mandatory random drug testing, just as pilots, bus drivers, WalMart clerks, athletes and others already undergo.
The “38 Is Too Late” website — www.38istoolate.org — tells the stories of the victims of the unjust law and rallies the public’s support for changing the almost 38 year-old cap.
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