Bad Medicine Festers Behind Closed Doors

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No doctor in her right mind would routinely practice medicine in the dark, but hospital administrators around the state are asking lawmakers to let them do just that.

A bill worming its way through the state legislature would allow hospitals and trauma rooms to keep reports on their performance -- information of great interest to patients -- secret.

Proponents of the bill, which passed the House 58 to 2 last week, argue that hospital officials would be more inclined to prepare reports for the state's emergency medical services system if the reports were kept hidden from the prying eyes of the public.

Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association officials, who back the bill, say hospital administrators don't complete their emergency-system reports as often as they should -- meaning when the reports reflect poorly on the hospitals -- because the information is available for public scrutiny.

We wonder how we can trust hospital administrators to prepare performance reviews in private, when they've already demonstrated a reluctance to openly prepare them for the public good.

If hospital performance reports are squirreled away in some locked filing cabinet, how can patients be sure that hospitals are diligently identifying and correcting mistakes -- mistakes that can mean the difference between life and death?

The bill, HB2506, which is scheduled to be heard before the Senate Health Committee, will only allow reports to be released after the names of the hospitals and trauma centers have been blacked out -- a futile gesture that will effectively render the reports useless for analysis.

At one time or another, we or someone we know will probably end up in a hospital. Wouldn't you like to know what kind of treatment record it has? Call senators Jack Brown and John Wettaw this week and tell them to keep hospital records open to the public.

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