The slow-moving bureaucracy at the Department of Health and Human Services is preventing hospitals and nursing homes from seeing the names in a data base of health care workers disciplined by state licensing boards.
According to a report by NPR, the federal government started keeping the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank 22 years ago. It was supposed to be open to hospitals and nursing homes when they hire staff and want to run a background check.
But the Department of Health and Human Services never completed the regulation implementing the law. "There's really no reason for it at all," says Dr. Sidney Wolfe, who runs the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen's Health Research Group.
Wolfe notes that there are more than 102,000 nurses, nurse aides, pharmacists and pharmacy assistants who've been disciplined and included in the registry, but that hospitals and nursing homes can't check the data bank. There's also a separate, national data bank of doctors who've been disciplined, he adds, and that list can be checked by hospitals.
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