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Washington Posts Health Care Provider Information Online

Past issues of PLN have reported on the checkered pasts of many prison health care employees. Before being employed by prisons and jails many medical staff have been disciplined, had their licenses revoked and suffered other forms of license limitations designed to protect the public from sex predators and assorted incompetents. Washington has more than its share of incompetent prison medical personnel. In a major step towards government accountability and consumer protection, on April 15, 2003, the Medical Quality Assurance Commission of the Washington state Department of Health began to post the disciplinary histories of all medical care professionals licensed to practice in Washington state.

The MQAC website lists all pending and past disciplinary actions against the 260,000 medical care providers licensed in Washington state. This ranges from doctors, dentists, nurses, x ray technicians, acupuncturists and much more. Where discipline has occurred after July, 1998, the action taken is listed. Likewise in cases where charges are pending. For disciplinary actions occurring before that date, those will be indicated on the website and the information can then be requested from the MQAC in a hard copy format. The site is also useful to anyone, in prison or out, concerned about the quality of their health care.

"The public really wants information on health care professionals. They want to know that they're making wise decisions about their health care," said Bonnie King, acting director of health professions quality assurance for the DOH.

Other states have similar information. Medical care providers disciplinary histories are useful in medical malpractice actions. As past articles in PLN have indicated, typically when medical malpractice occurs in prisons or jails, the perpetrator has a lengthy history of misconduct. PLN currently has a public records suit pending against the Washington Department of Corrections seeking disclosure of the names of its employees who have been disciplined for medical neglect and misconduct. That case is awaiting a decision from a state appeals court and PLN will report the outcome when it is decided. The DOH website address is: www.doh.wa-gov. Complaints and requests for information about disciplined medical staff can also be submitted by letter to the MQAC.

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