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One of the hot button issues facing the nation is health care reform. Most public officials agree that health care reform is necessary. The question is not whether reform is needed, but rather how to reform the system. Patients who need emergency or long-term treatment in hospitals face more than the challenge of recovery; many also face the challenge of an over-inflated medical bill. This is just one of the many reasons you may prefer to keep your hospital visit as short as possible. You trust that your caregivers are doing their best to restore you to health and help you go home sooner rather than later. After all, they’re charging you $10 for an aspirin; one would hope that kind of price tag buys you quality care and puts you on track for a speedy recovery. Unfortunately, recent reports have revealed that the Nursing Board for the state of California may have been overlooking complaints about unfit or neglectful nurses.

The Nursing Board’s failure to address problems with the state’s health professionals caused Governor Schwarzenegger to fire three of the six board members, among them the president and vice president. The official reason for the firing was the “unacceptable time it takes to discipline nurses accused of egregious misconduct”, according to The Los Angeles Times and ProPublica. Investigations have revealed that nurses throughout the state have been allowed to continue working despite misconduct that harmed patients, criminal convictions, and incompetence. The California Board of Nursing allowed nurses accused of misconduct to continue practicing with clean records. Many who had been fired or prohibited from working in other states kept practicing without facing any disciplinary action from the board. On average, The Los Angeles Times’ investigation found that the board takes three years and five months to look into a given complaint. This is more than 6x the amount of time it takes for other state boards to address complaints in Arizona, Texas, or Ohio. This means that, since the board is also responsible for processing complaints to a nurse’s record and revoking licenses, mistreatment of patients in California hospitals has been essentially ignored by the Board of Nursing for years.

In one particular case, Laguna Beach resident Spencer Sullivan became a quadriplegic after a successful neck operation in 2001. State records allege that following the operation, a nurse gave Sullivan twice the amount of medication he was supposed to receive, causing him to suffer brain damage. The Sullivan family filed a complaint with the California Board of Nursing in the months following the operation. After suing the hospital, the incident was again reported to the board in 2005, this time by the family’s insurer. Not until April of 2008 did the board file a complaint against the nurse.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of neglect or misconduct by a health professional, you should consult an attorney as soon as possible for help filing a complaint and possibly recovering damages for injuries you have suffered. If you are sick or injured, the last thing you should have to worry about is neglect or abuse from your caregiver. An attorney with knowledge of official complaints and medical misconduct can help you through the process of protecting yourself, your family, and your rights.

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