Washington- American Medicine is at a crossroads. Doctors coalitions, led spotlighted the incredible danger to the public at their annual meeting May 11- 18, 2008. At the center of the conference were repeated findings that sham peer review is harming patients, and leading to cost increases, decreased quality, and in many cases excess deaths. Peer review is supposed to be the safeguard of the public, but instead has been used to suppress doctors who stand up for quality patient care.
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"The public deserves better," stated Dr. Blake Moore, chairman of the meeting held in Congress May 11- 18, 2008. "The public must demand better. Too many large HMOs have put profit before patients. We need honest, scientific oversight of peer review so that every patient knows that his or her own doctor is working for them."
"Literally," Dr. Moore continued, "We need clean hands in medicine. Protecting the independence of doctors from shams is essential to protect patients. There is just too much evidence to be ignored."
"The public would be shocked," stated Dr. James Murtagh, co-chair of the International Association of Whistleblowers (IAW). "The ultimate safeguard of patient safety is scientific and rigorous peer review. Yet, hospitals often fail to use elementary standards. Worse, punitive peer review is used to silence doctors who stand up for patients."
The conference reviewed evidence that every patient and every family needs to be concerned that peer review failures compromise the independence of doctors, and prevent patients from getting needed care. Further, bad faith peer review inevitably leads to tragic errors, and to needless loss of life.
The group agreed with the plan outlined by the Government Accountability Project (GAP), Tom Devine Esq., legal director, that three immediate measures are essential to re-establish integrity in the hospital industry, and to protect patient safety:
1. Pass H.R. 4047, the Private Sector Whistleblower Protection Streamlining Act of 2007. Introduced by Reps. Lynn Woolsey and Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, this legislation would streamline protections for all private sector employees, and protect physicians who are retaliated against for blowing the whistle on inadequate health care.
2. Pass H.R. 4650, the Congressional Disclosures Act of 2007. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Al Wynn, would give federal workers, contractors, and any other employee of an organization that receive payments from the federal government, including hospitals, access to court when they are prosecuted or otherwise harassed for blowing the whistle directly to Congress.
3. Launch a Government Accountability Office investigation to assess the vulnerability and extent of hospitals abusing the peer review process to retaliate against physician whistleblowers, and the impact on patient safety, medical costs, quality and outcomes.
"We need more data. We need to base policy on fact and outcomes. We need a large scale scrupulous and objective study by the GAO." stated Michael McCray, Esq., co-chair of the IAW. "We would like to see Congress conduct oversight hearings regarding significant GAO findings. Public interest groups stand united behind these brave physicians who have put themselves on the line to protect quality patient care."
"The time is past when we can rely on anecdote or hearsay." Dr. Murtagh continued. "The evidence is massive that bad faith peer review is harming the public. We need this GAO investigation, and we need to rely on hard facts to protect patients."
The doctors plan a massive lobbying effort to obtain passage of H.R. 4047 and 4650, and to obtain the GAO investigation. "Let data, not men prevail," exclaimed the doctors. "We can and must end bad faith in medicine."
GAP, and the IAW urge all citizens and patients to write Congress and demand good faith safety procedures in Hospitals, including scientific and evidence based peer review.
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