For Immediate Release
March 20, 2014
Sen. Rick Jones: 517-410-9495
Arika Sinnott, Sen. Schuitmaker’s Office: 517-373-0793
LANSING, Mich.— The Michigan Senate Thursday gave final approval to a package of legislation that will better protect patients by increasing oversight and transparency at the state’s boards of health professions.
Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker and Sen. Rick Jones introduced the legislation last year in response to evidence that a former Board of Medicine chairman dismissed serious allegations against a Muskegon abortion provider, Dr. Robert Alexander, without investigation and without disclosing their prior relationship.
“The great majority of our health care providers are caring and committed professionals, but unfortunately there are some bad actors that abuse their patients’ trust,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “We will now have the tools in place to effectively hold those people accountable and make sure that they do not pose any more danger to the public.”
Sen. Rick Jones commented on an experience from his time as a sheriff.
“Years ago the victim of a rape in Macomb County came to me and asked for help. She had been drugged and raped by her dentist. She said that she knew I was a former sheriff and would fight for justice,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Her rapist had spent only one year in jail and was given his license back. Today we are sending a package of bills to the governor that will guarantee a licensed medical provider will lose their license forever if convicted of raping a patient. We also ensure that when a complaint is made on a medical professional that one person who is a friend cannot tear it up and hide it. When these bills are signed into law, Michigan will become a safer place to be a patient.”
Schuitmaker added that “Patients rely on the state’s oversight boards to ensure that their health care providers are practicing safely and responsibly. I hope this legislation can restore the public’s confidence in those boards.”
In 2009, allegations were brought against Dr. Robert Alexander by another doctor who treated one of Alexander’s patients. Dr. George Shade, then chairman of the board, singlehandedly dismissed the allegations without investigating. In 2012, Alexander's clinic in Muskegon was shut down for multiple health and safety violations.
Further information showed that Alexander lost his license and served time in prison in the 1980s and 1990s. When Alexander applied to have his license reinstated, Shade served as Alexander’s mentor.
Senate Bill 575 requires a minimum of three board members to review every allegation brought to the boards. Currently, a board chairperson has the power to make decisions without consulting other members. It further prohibits the currently permissible practice of board members testifying as paid expert witnesses in malpractice suits over allegations that may later come before the board to investigate.
SB 576 requires board members to disclose any conflict of interest that might exist between them and the health care providers they are investigating.
SB 577 automatically revokes a health professional’s license if they are found guilty of criminal sexual conduct against a patient while acting in their capacity as a health professional.
SB 578 makes revisions to the law governing decisions of disciplinary subcommittees.