State can take action against those in health care

Consumer: I think my doctor may have broken the law. Where do I file a complaint?

Consumer: I think my doctor may have broken the law. Where do I file a complaint?

Attorney General Rob McKenna: Doctors, nurses and dentists play an important role in our health and safety. Most meet or exceed legally required standards of practice. If health care providers act unprofessionally or cause harm, the state is able to take disciplinary action. By reporting possible violations, you can play an important role in protecting the people of Washington.

You can file a complaint about a healthcare provider on the Department of Health Web site at www.doh.wa.gov/hsqa/complaint.htm. You can also call 360-236-4700 to file a complaint.

The Department of Health helps oversee more than 350,000 health professionals and 7,000 facilities. Each year it reviews nearly 8,000 complaints and inspects thousands of facilities.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Resource Center also receives complaints about healthcare providers. Gripes about health care businesses ranked ninth last year among the industries consumer complained about.

The secretary of health and 14 boards and commissions discipline health professionals who violate the law. The secretary also regulates some health care facilities. Last year, the department filed actions involving 585 providers. Actions may result in penalties such as fines, mandatory counseling, training, or suspension of the provider’s license. In the most serious cases, credentials are revoked.

The department and its boards and commissions review and investigate complaints. They take administrative action if it appears a health care provider violated the law. The Attorney General’s Office represents the state in those proceedings. If criminal activity is suspected, the state refers the matter to a county prosecutor who may bring charges.

The Department of Health Web site has a section that lets you check to see if a provider or facility has proper credentials or has been disciplined. It’s called Provider Credential Search and is available at www.doh.wa.gov/hsqa.

For more information on how the state regulates health care providers, contact the department’s Health Systems Quality Assurance division at 360-236- 4700. You can also write to hpqa.csc@doh.wa.gov or P.O. Box 47865, Olympia, Wash. 98504-7865.

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Want more consumer advice? Previous Ask the AG columns are online at www.atg.wa.gov/askcolumn.aspx. Also check out the Attorney General’s All Consuming blog at www.atg.wa.gov/allconsuming.aspx.

Attorney General Rob McKenna offers this public service to help consumers avoid fraud and to promote a fair and informed marketplace. If you have a consumer complaint or inquiry, contact the Consumer Protection Division at www.atg.wa.gov or 1-800-551-4636 between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays. To suggest a future topic for this column, send an e-mail to asktheag@atg.wa.gov or write to “Ask the AG,” Attorney General’s Office, 800 5th Ave. Suite 2000, Seattle, Wash. 98104-3188.

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