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Ducey: Health boards 'dark corner' of AZ gov't

Posted at 1:42 PM, May 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-18 16:42:42-04

Governor Doug Ducey called for a complete overhaul of Arizona’s health regulatory boards on Wednesday, saying the state’s system of protecting the public lacks accountability, transparency and oversight.

But ironically, the Governor’s comments came in a letter vetoing SB1443, which would have greatly improved transparency and made other reforms to Arizona’s nearly two dozen health boards.

Ducey said the bill didn’t go far enough.

“It’s watered down and weak, and it would give protectors of the status quo the excuse to say we’ve done something, when we really haven’t,” Ducey’s letter said.

READ THE FULL LETTER

Sen. Nancy Barto, R – Phoenix, introduced SB1443.

In response, Barto said saying she was surprised by the veto would be an understatement.

"This (bill) could have made significant progress to protect the public and meet their need for information about the people they trust with their health," Barto said.

She added that the bill was designed to address specific issues.

The bill unanimously passed through the legislature and would have required the state’s health boards to post all actions against professionals on their websites as well as recorded copies of their meetings . It also would have imposed term limits on board members and revamped the substance abuse recovery program for professionals.

“Transparency is the best cleanser,” said Barto, during a legislative session in March. “The public deserves to have all actions on the websites.”

Barto introduced the bill, in large part, because of an ongoing ABC15 investigation into Arizona’s Board of Dental Examiners.

ABC15 INVESTIGATES ARIZONA'S DENTAL DANGERS

What’s interesting: Barto successfully worked last year to pass a bill – also signed by Ducey -- that required the dental board to post all actions. She made good on a promise to ABC15 to expand the legislation this year with SB1443.

The station uncovered 70 percent of the board’s actions were essentially hidden from the public because they were classified as “non-discipline.” By law, non-disciplinary actions – even though they are public records – are prohibited from being posted on health boards’ websites.

ABC15's reports also exposed a broken system that critics said protected dentists and hurt patients.  Dentists who have had committed sex crimes, engaged in extreme misconduct, lost their licenses in other states, and had patients die in their care have been able to continue practicing, records show.

In his veto letter, Ducey also referenced ABC15’s reporting.

“There is such a lack of accountability that we’ve relied on the press to uncover wrongdoings,” he said. “Thanks to aggressive reporting in the media we’ve learned of significant problems that need to be addressed. But it shouldn’t get to that point. There needs to be more oversight.”

The Governor said he has directed his staff to explore all options to “shine a light on this dark corner of state government.” He also called on legislators to introduce and pass aggressive reforms next year.

ABC15 is currently reviewing non-disciplinary actions for nearly all of the state’s health board and plans to post them in the coming months. If you have a story involving a health board or health professional, please contact ABC15 at investigators@abc15.com.

ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing can be reached at dbiscobing@abc15.com.