Since 2006, California lawmakers have passed laws to improve patient safety, yet the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has been moving at turtle speed to enforce these laws. Read our new report here.

We asked CDPH to provide us with information about their progress on implementing key requirements of the patient safety laws passed in 2006 and 2008—even filing a public records request in February–but they have not yet provided us the information that we’ve requested. California patients deserve better than that.

An estimated 240,000 Californians develop hospital acquired infections each year, resulting in 13,500 deaths and a cost of $3.1 billion. Medical errors kill as many as 10,000 Californians annually and injure 140,000. These errors include so-called “never events” because they can always be prevented and should never happen.

Our report details the slow progress of the Department to better protect patients, such as collecting information on hospital acquired infections and medical errors and making it available to the public; screening certain high-risk patients for MRSA; and conducting unannounced inspections of hospitals to ensure that they are improving in their medical error prevention policies.

Did the dog eat the Department’s homework assignments? It’s time for the Department to show that they really are on board with these patient safety laws. CDPH has missed important deadline after important deadline, and people’s lives are at stake. CDPH missed the July 2008 deadline for publishing a report on hospitals’ compliance with CDC infection control guidelines. CDPH disbanded its infection advisory committee as required by law. And the agency failed to disclose the rate of hospital workers who got flu vaccinations, due in 2008, and especially important during last year’s H1N1 scare.

We do appreciate one area where CDPH is doing what the law requires. They have investigated and fined hospitals that have unsafe practices, collecting more than $1 million in fines since 2007. You can go to their website and see if your hospital has been fined.

CDPH owes the public an initial report on certain infection rates at each California hospital by January 2011. The clock is ticking.