N.Y. Gov. Pataki Seeks Patient Protections

May 7, 2004

New York Governor George E. Pataki and Senator Kemp Hannon have introduced a measure in the state Senate that would strengthen protections for patients and ensure that additional background checks for health professionals caring for these patients are completed and thoroughly reviewed by the institution employing them.

The initiative is a Governor’s program bill that Senator Hannon is sponsoring in the Senate.

“The chilling admission last week by nurse Charles Cullen to murdering 13 hospital patients in New Jersey tragically underscores both the vulnerability of seriously ill patients and the tremendous amount of trust we place in the hands of the professionals who care for them,” Governor Pataki said.

“Our medical facilities provide critical health care services to thousands of New York’s families, and this legislation is another necessary step in our efforts to ensure the dedicated men and women who work in our clinics, community health centers and hospitals are deserving of the trust we place in them. I want to thank Senator Hannon for being a strong supporter of these efforts and sponsoring this legislation.”

Senator Kemp Hannon said, that while “the State of New York goes to great lengths to ensure that patients receive the highest quality health care” it must “also ensure that the highest quality people are providing that care. This legislation would strengthen and expand the credentialing process to cover additional providers to further ensure patient safety.”

The legislation would expand current law to require the credentialing of all licensed medical professionals providing direct patient care in New York’s health care facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes and health care clinics. State law now requires hospitals, nursing homes and health care clinics to credential the physicians, physician’s assistants, dentists and podiatrists they employ.

The proposal would expand the list of those professionals to be credentialed to include nurses, pharmacists and respiratory therapists, and others to be specified by the State Health Commissioner.

The proposal would also bolster the ability of the State Health Department and State Education Department to share information with each other, and with health care providers. It will also increase penalties for violations of the law and provide for criminal sanctions for those that intentionally file false information or willfully ignore the credentialing process.

By extending the credentialing requirement to direct care providers, the proposal would provide hospitals, nursing homes and health care clinics with clear statutory authority to disclose relevant information regarding former employees. In addition, the legislation would provide hospitals, nursing homes and health care clinics and their employees with immunity from civil litigation for information disclosed in good faith. Concerns about confidentiality restrictions and the threat of litigation have deterred some employers from fully responding to a potential employer’s request for references.

The proposal would:

* Require hospitals, nursing homes and health care clinics to obtain an employment history for direct care health professionals seeking employment at their facility;
* Require hospitals, nursing homes and health care clinics to provide a comprehensive and accurate employment history to other facilities on prospective employees, including any pending investigations by the health care facility or by any state or federal regulatory agencies;
* Authorize the DOH and State Education Department to share information regarding final disciplinary actions and pending investigations alleging poor patient care against a licensed health care professional and enable the agencies to provide this information to hospitals, nursing homes and health care clinics;
* Increase enforcement penalties for licensed health care facilities found in violation of the law. Current law allows for a maximum penalty of $2,000 per violation; and
* Make it a criminal offense for an individual to intentionally file false information to get credentials and for hospital personnel to provide intentionally false information about an ex-employee or willfully ignore their obligation to credential.

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