It ordered a national database allowing hospitals to check for disciplinary actions taken anywhere in the United States against nurses, pharmacists, psychologists and other licensed health professionals.
On March 1 22 years later the federal government finally plans to let hospitals use it. But the long-awaited repository is missing serious disciplinary actions against what are probably thousands of health providers, according to an investigation by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica in collaboration with the Los Angeles Times .
Some of the missing cases involve providers who have harmed patients a nurse, for instance, whose license was pulled after she injected a patient with painkillers in a drugstore parking lot and improperly prescribed methadone to an addict who later died of an overdose.
The omissions took federal health officials by surprise. Only last month, a spokesman for the agency that oversees the database told reporters that "no data is missing." Another official said the agency had been "constantly" checking its data against state licensing board Web sites.
But Friday, the head of the Health Resources and Services Administration acknowledged that records were missing. She said her agency had launched a "full and complete" review to determine what is wrong and how to fix it.
"We take this very seriously," administrator Mary Wakefield said.
The new information will still go online as planned but with a warning that it is incomplete, she said.Help requested
Wakefield and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter Friday to the nation's governors asking for their immediate help fixing gaps in the database. It was a matter of "protecting the safety of patients across this country," they wrote.
This summer, the letter said, the federal government will begin publicly listing any state agencies that do not report properly. Wakefield's agency also plans to hold training sessions for state officials and conduct audits to help ensure compliance.(2 of 2)
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