Gregoire pitches $8 million plan for patient safety


OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Chris Gregoire on Friday proposed tougher policing of health care professionals and more transparency of hospitals’ patient safety records.

The governor, who has made expanded health care a centerpiece of her term in office, said patient safety is “the next logical step on the road to reform.”

Compared with the more than $1 billion appropriated this year for state health care coverage, including an expansion to cover another 30,000 more children, her ideas for the 2008 legislative session have a tiny pricetag: less than $8 million.

Indeed, Gregoire said she expects full public access to hospitals’ track records to be done without extra cost to the state treasury. She said she will introduce legislation giving consumers information about “adverse events,” such as infections or patient deaths, at each hospital.

“With full disclosure, the health care system can learn from its mistakes and prevent new ones,” Gregoire said in a policy paper released by her office.

Gregoire outlined her proposals at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane after meeting with health care professionals from the area.

“All Washingtonians deserve safe, high-quality health care,” she said. “We rightfully expect our health care providers to do their best and, above all, to do no harm.”

Other proposals include:

-Strengthening standards for credentialing health care providers. This includes money for national criminal background checks for all out-of-state applicants seeking to get licensed in Washington. Gregoire said the $930,000 appropriation would pay for 13,500 background checks each year.

-Boosting standards for registered counselors. Cost: $560,000.

-“Rigorous” investigation of complaints against health care providers. Her budget will include $2 million for a 30 percent boost for investigations.

-A new state online database would provide a centralized look at all of the prescriptions an individual has from various providers, helping prevent adverse drug reactions or overmedication. Pricetag: $1.4 million.

-Helping hospitals train more nurses, to ease staff shortages. Pricetag: $3 million.
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