Commentary

04/29/2013  by Ed Coghlan

Is the state Medical Board doing enough?


(Photo: Fotos Gov/Ba)

When good government reform groups like California Forward talk about accountability and transparency, often they are concepts that people have a hard time defining. I mean, we want government to be accountable for results since we pay for the government and we'd like to know that we can find out what's going on when we want to.

They are noble and important themes, but let's face it, for most people—and this isn’t easy for us to admit-- transparency and accountability don't always mean that much. 

And then you read a story written by Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times and suddenly the concept of whether government is working the way it should gets “real”.

Let me ask you a question. Wouldn't you like to know if your doctor is qualified, licensed and generally up to snuff?

In California that’s the job the Medical Board of California which is responsible for the proper licensing and regulation of physicians and surgeons in the state.

And their website gives evidence that they act. Here’s a March 8 press release talking about the arrest of a physician in Winnetka for sexual battery against a patient.

Hiltzik's piece  essentially argues that it does very little and that patients are at risk. It is hard hitting. He calls is the least effective regulatory bodies in Sacramento.

The Medical Board is up for legislative re-authorization under the state's sunset rules.  Hiltzik wrote, “The legislators in charge of that procedure are talking about rubbing out the current membership and their executive director as of Jan. 1, and starting over fresh.”

"That's not an idle threat," Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) told the Times.  Price chairs the board's sunset review with Assemblyman Richard Gordon (D-Menlo Park).

Californians want their government to work. By and large this state likes government, sees it as a vehicle for good things.  And under Governor Brown—many would say thanks to Governor Brown—how Californians view government is better than it was several  years ago.

But Californians still want government to do better, to help create more middle class jobs, to have public services that are cost effective and to be accountable for the results of the programs.

That’s why when $40 million in state parks money was suddenly discovered after hiding in plain sight for many years, it broke through the haze of government spending and became something that everyday Californians talked about.

Well if they talked about parks money, imagine how a conversation about physician oversight might go?

We’ll see how Hiltzik’s story plays out and how the Medical Board responds (they haven’t said anything publicly yet) and then how Senator Price and the Legislature responds.

This is the type of story that organizations like ours really like to amplify. It’s about how government can be better for the people it serves.

It’s an example where the performance of an agency most people have never heard of directly impacts on the quality of health care that we all receive.  The Legislature's primary role here is to make sure the executive branch is effectively implementing the law -- good old fashioned oversight.

We’ll be following this. So should you.

Categories: Transparency

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