A week ago, our Consumers Union (CU) Safe Patient Project staff went to sunny California to meet with our network of activists that are working to protect CA patients from medical harm. We held a group strategy meeting in Los Angeles to recognize our progress and discuss plans moving forward on hospital infection transparency and protecting patients from unsafe doctors. The following day, several activists and CU staff testified at the CA medical board quarterly meeting, which had a noticeable impact on board members.
Let’s transport you to the medical board meeting held in a hotel meeting room. About a dozen medical board members sit at the front of the room, facing the audience, including our group. We are geared up to testify. We listen to presentations by the medical board staff and others. We take notes. When it’s our turn to speak, we walk up to face the board, speak into a microphone and deliver our prepared testimony. Fearless and poised, Tina Minasian and Michele Monserratt-Ramos from our network, both with devastating experiences with substance-abusing doctors, gave compelling testimony that swayed the board on a highly contested bill (AB 2346) that they and Consumers Union oppose. The bill would create a program that secretly diverts drug and alcohol addicted physicians from a public disciplinary track into a voluntary monitoring program, where physician participation and possible impairment are kept secret from patients. A member of the Board made a motion to support AB2346 in concept. But after testimony by Tina and Michele and other consumer advocates, the board members were swayed to not to take a position on the bill at all. This could be a big help in stopping the legislation. We believe this legislation hurts patients because it would enable physicians with drug or alcohol problems to continue to see patients without patients knowing. These impairments could affect a physician’s practice of medicine and potentially harm patients.
We’ve been working to make the Medical Board more consumer friendly for several years and it’s paid off! Last week’s meeting was the first one to allow people to testify over the phone. CA is a big state and often interested parties can’t attend the meetings in person. Because of our advocacy in CA, all of the medical board meetings are now streamed online (webcast), and people can call in and provide testimony. That was Michele’s idea! CA activist Rae Greulich took advantage of this and called in to the meeting to recommend that the medical board require outpatient surgery centers to report their infection rates. Another good idea!
Here’s some background on others who make up our CA Safe Patient Network, which we formed nearly five years ago. We connected because they shared their personal medical harm stories with us and were on a mission to make health care safer for the next patient. For several years these CA activists have been advocating for transparency and accountability of doctors at the Medical Board of California (MBC) meetings, and participating in the CA Healthcare Associated Infections Advisory Committee as consumer members. Our staff provides policy guidance and support for these advocates to testify at California medical board meetings with support from the California HealthCare Foundation.
Some of them have been involved since the beginning–people like Alicia Cole who survived multiple hospital-acquired infections including Necrotizing Fasciitis. Alicia’s been a voting member of the CA hospital infection advisory committee for over three years and frequently speaks at patient safety conferences. And power duo Carole and Ty Moss, who lost their 15-year-old son Nile to a MRSA infection, formed Nile’s Project to educate people in creative ways about MRSA, and sponsored Nile’s Law, the state’s hospital infection reporting law.
We welcomed a few newcomers last week to our CA network, including Lenore Alexander who formed Leah’s Legacy, which works to achieve zero preventable deaths from medical error through education and advocacy. Lenore was called to patient safety advocacy after her 11-year-old daughter Leah died tragically after an elective surgery in 2002. And Marian Hollingsworth joined us after she contacted CU through our Facebook page. Marian’s father died in 2009 after suffering medical harm, and now she’s working on better protection against health care-acquired infections, and is involved with the push to reduce or eradicate the use of antipsychotic drugs on hospital and nursing homes patients, especially when it is given without consent.
Fostering our CA network and taking action at the opportune time strengthens the voice of patients in California. We look forward to continuing to build our consumer power.
To learn more about our California Safe Patient Network, leave a comment, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at @CUsafepatient.