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Consumer Watchdog Calls On Kaiser CEO To Disclose Substance Abuse & Patient Safety Problems At Health System Following High Profile Denials By Kaiser Doc

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Nov. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Consumer Watchdog wrote incoming Kaiser CEO Bernard Tyson to take issue with "disconcerting statements made by one of your employees, Dr. Paul Phinney, the immediate past President of the California Medical Association, who has maintained that medical negligence and substance abuse among physicians are not significant patient safety issues that need to be addressed."

In a recent interview and other media statements Phinney has challenged the notion that medical negligence is a leading public health problem and refused to take a position on mandatory drug testing of physicians.  

Read the letter at:

"The California Medical Board's Diversion Program reported that 18% of physicians have drug and alcohol problems during the course of their careers," wrote Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court. "Kaiser employs approximately 17,000 physicians. Based on the Medical Board's calculation, 3,060 of them will have a substance abuse problem during their careers. The public deserves to know the extent of substance abuse by Kaiser physicians, and the impact on the patients they serve.

"Phinney has also disputed widely accepted data that 210,000 – 400,000 people die every year from medical negligence, making malpractice the third leading cause of death in this country. Given his misrepresentations and evasions, Kaiser Permanente should be willing to publicly disclose data about patient safety problems and risks at its own facilities."

Consumer Watchdog called upon Tyson to disclose publicly the following information:

  1. Data for the last decade showing how many Kaiser physicians were disciplined for drug and alcohol problems;
  2. Data for the last decade showing how many cases in the Kaiser arbitration system involved substance abuse by physicians;
  3. Data for the last decade showing how many peer review reports were made by Kaiser doctors about other Kaiser doctors' negligent practices or substance abuse issues;
  4. Data from the arbitration system showing how many cases involved prescription overdose injuries or deaths, and the resolution of such disputes;
  5. Full disclosure about the nature of Kaiser Permanente's funding of the California Medical Association, as it has been reported but never confirmed that Kaiser pays the dues for every Kaiser physician to become a member of the CMA and therefore has disproportionate political impact over the association; and,
  6. Explain why Kaiser Permanente has not fully implemented real-time use of the CURES prescription drug database in California and what procedures are now required of its doctors before prescribing narcotics.

Court wrote: "Articles in medical journals nationally confirm that substance abuse by physicians is a serious problem. Yet Paul's callous disregard for this serious threat echoes an outrageous statement made by California Society of Anesthesiologists director Dr. Jeffrey Poage, who wrote last week for a feature on the society's webpage: 'Is physician impairment really a problem? Doesn't matter.' "

"Most troubling is Paul's repeated disrespect for and unwillingness to acknowledge the suffering and circumstances of families and victims of medical negligence, including Bob Pack, the author of the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act," Court wrote.  "Bob and I have written Paul on numerous occasions to ask him to debate his misstatements about the Pack family and Bob's ballot measure proposal. Paul has ignored each letter and not publicly acknowledged, in dozens of media statements, the circumstances that led to the death of Bob's two children, a tragedy in which Kaiser Permanente played a prominent role, and the impetus for the Pack Act.

"As you probably know, Troy, 10 years old, and Alana, 7 years old, died when a drug-addicted driver, who was recklessly prescribed thousands of pills by Kaiser doctors, swerved off a road after falling asleep at the wheel during a drug and alcohol binge.   She killed not only Troy and Alana, but also the unborn twins Carmen Pack was carrying.

"In the wake of the tragedy, Bob created the electronic prescription drug database, CURES, in order to keep track of prescription drugs in the state. This year, the legislature passed Senate Bill 809 to fund the database. However, after intense opposition from the California Medical Association, the bill was amended on the Senate floor to prevent doctors from having to check the database before prescribing narcotics. That is why the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act mandates that doctors check the database before prescribing narcotics.

"Bob Pack's family was victimized by the failure of the medical establishment, and Kaiser Permanente, to take prescription drug abuse seriously and the failure of the legal system, due to a 38 year old cap on malpractice damages in such cases, to deter dangerous doctors who turn a blind eye to drug abuse and who, in some cases, knowingly participate in it. 

"Paul's failure to acknowledge the Pack family's suffering and Kaiser's role in it, the epidemic of medical negligence, and the problem of drug abuse by both physicians and patients reflects poorly on both the medical profession and Kaiser Permanente."

SOURCE Consumer Watchdog
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