A controversial rule that would force some physicians on probation for medical misconduct to disclose the offense to their patients was approved last week by the state Senate, which killed a more stringent version of the bill last year. If approved by the state Assembly and ultimately signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the bill would require physicians to notify patients if they are on probation for the following: sexual misconduct; drug or alcohol abuse while treating patients; or a criminal conviction involving patient treatment. Patient notification would also be required if the doctor had been put on probation multiple times.
“We’re very happy to see this bill move forward and that it continues to include a requirement that doctors on probation for certain reasons must notify their patients about that probation,” said Lisa McGiffert, director of the Safe Patient Project of Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports.
Consumers Union said patient notification is crucial because state research shows that doctors who have been placed on probation by the Medical Board of California are more likely to be disciplined in the future. The notification requirement is embedded in SB 798, which reauthorizes the state medical board. The agency, which opposed the notification requirement last year, now supports the bill.
That support came after its author agreed to make several changes. Earlier versions of the bill required doctors to inform their patients about the specific charges against them. It also would have required patient notification for a wider range of disciplinary actions. Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, author of SB 798, has questioned the Medical Board’s past opposition to patient notification. During a Feb. 27 joint legislative session where various state medical boards were reviewed, Hill pointedly asked, “Why is it that the medical board is reluctant to notify patients when their doctors are on probation?”
Kimberly Kirchmeyer, executive director of the Medical Board, said some board members were concerned the requirement would “interfere with the physician/patient relationship” and that it could impact the “time-frame for that physician to be able to see the patient because so many questions would come up at that time.”Kirchmeyer also said information on disciplinary actions taken against a physician are currently available on the Medical Board’s website.
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