Dangerous Caregivers go Missing from Federal Database

Two decades ago, Congress created a national database to stop dangerous or incompetent caregivers from crossing state lines. The database allowed hospitals to check for disciplinary actions taken anywhere in the country against nurses, pharmacists, psychologists and other licensed health professionals. Twenty-two years later the federal government is finally letting hospitals use it. However, the database is missing serious disciplinary actions against possibly thousands of health providers. One such health care provider had her license pulled after she injected a patient with painkillers in a drugstore parking lot. However, she is not listed on the database.

The head of the Health Resources and Services Administration has acknowledged that records were missing. They sent a letter to the nation’s governors asking for their immediate help fixing gaps in the database calling it a matter of public safety. In 1999, medical malpractice legislation made it mandatory for state boards to file a report on all other health professionals whose licenses were revoked or restricted. Reporters found at least nine states that appear to have submitted incomplete records on registered nurses. This includes one case in which a nurse had put a knife to a co-worker’s throat. A recent medical malpractice article documented the failure of this database.

The Chicago Tribune has found that Illinois regulators had revoked the license of an EMT after she failed to provide proper care to patients in need, yet she was still not on the federal database. Illinois is one of the 20 states that have failed to adequately report disciplinary actions. These databases will help decrease medical error. They must be properly updated in order to protect Illinois patients.

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