Conn. A.G. seeks greater disclosure by hospitals of medical mistakes

Nick Rees Nov. 16, 2009, 6:14pm

Richard Blumenthal (D)

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has announced that he will seek legislation to require greater disclosure by hospitals of medical mistakes as well as to provide regulators with increased investigative resources and new authority to impose civil penalties.

"We will fight to assure greater disclosure of and accountability for medical errors at hospitals, protecting patients and improving quality of care,"Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal is joined in his effort to strengthen state hospital mistake reporting laws by Connecticut Center for Patient Safety Executive Director Jean Rexford.

"Using sunlight as the best disinfectant, we prescribe public disclosure more fully and promptly of hospital medical errors - information consumers need and deserve. We will seek new authority and additional resources - more power and personnel - for the state Medical Examining Board and Department of Public Health, enabling them to aggressively investigate medical mistakes at hospitals and punish with powerful civil penalties. Incredibly, under current law, there is no authority to impose mandatory civil penalties on hospitals."

Blumenthal and Rexford's attempt to overhaul the medical mistake reporting law follows a media report that exposed the failure of hospitals to disclose medical mistakes and improprieties and the failure by the state to investigate and punish the most serious of those mistake and improprieties, many of which resulted in death.

"This law is a deadly and disgraceful failure, shielding hospitals and medical professionals from scrutiny and accountability and leaving patients in the dark," Blumenthal said. "Medical mistakes causing death and serious illness usually go unreported, undisclosed and uninvestigated, undermining patient protection. A law intended to expose and address medical incompetence instead abets cover-up and concealment. Gaping loopholes keeping most hospital medical errors secret - including more than 50 that resulted in death - are unconscionable and unacceptable."

Blumenthal's call for increased investigative powers includes a package that will include access and availability of Department of Public Health and Medical Examining Board records, more frequent and effective investigations of medical error complaints and civil penalties for proven hospital violations of medical care standards.

"As we walk toward health care reform at the state and national level - we must stop and ask - access to what?" Rexford said. "We want to assure that quality of care is a primary focus. We know that transparency and accountability are key components in providing quality care."

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