By Don Ray
Californians who encounter problems with licensed physicians will soon face fewer barriers and gain better access to the Medical Board’s information and investigative procedures.
Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law last week a bill that its author, State Senator Richard D. Roth (D) of Riverside says will “promote patient rights and improve transparency and efficiencies” at the Medical Board of California.
“We’re listening,” Roth said. “We hear you. We’re empowering you and we’re giving you a stronger voice in this process.
“This legislation contains key transparency and accountability reforms that protect and empower patients, guarantee swifter patient-centric action for physicians facing discipline, and provide the Medical board with added revenue to bring it back from the fiscal cliff it has been hanging from, for years.”
Roth praised the governor for signing into law what he calls “substantial legislation.”
The bill will create a Complaint Liaison Unit at the Medical Board that will better deal with members of the public who are unhappy with the conduct of their physicians.
Roth says the Complaint Liaison Unit personnel will coordinate and support public outreach activities to “improve the public’s understanding of the Medical Board’s enforcement process.”
The new law also requires, for the first time, the Medical Board investigators interview the complainant before they close the case. Furthermore, it requires the Medical Board to consider the complainant’s statement when it makes a final disciplinary decision.
The legislation authorizes the Medical Board to revoke the license of any physician that a court convicts of “a serious felony,” including selling or transferring fentanyl as part of his or her practice. And, it adds additional acts to its list of “unprofessional conduct” that could warrant discipline.
They include a physician suggesting to complaining patients that they rescind their consent to release their medical records to the Medical Board or its investigators, as well as “dissuading, intimidating or tampering” with anyone who is reporting or testifying against a physician.
The law also broadens the Medical Board’s jurisdiction regarding pretrial and settlement processes, physician’s probation timeframes and the keeping of patients’ records.
Finally, the legislation increases physician license fees by nearly a third.
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