Patient Safety Act to fingerprint docs, nurses moves forward in House

March 3, 2017 Updated: March 6, 2017 at 2:35 pm
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State Rep. Janet Buckner says Colorado is one of only five states that don't require fingerprint background checks for nurses and one of only six that don't fingerprint doctors. That's why the Aurora Democrat, a former medical sales professional, is sponsoring the Patient Safety Act, which would require fingerprint background checks for doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers authorized to prescribe controlled substances in the state.

The Act, House Bill 1121, also enters Colorado into the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact to enable health-care professionals to continue to provide telehealth nursing services and to be able to practice in other states with their Colorado license. And the bill aligns the Nursing Practice Act to the Medical Practice Act to eliminate an existing "safe harbor" for addiction-related violations.

HB 1121 passed the House Health, Insurance & Environment Committee on Thursday.

"This is a common sense change, and it is time Colorado joins the rest of the nation to better protect our patients," Buckner said in a news release from the House Democrats.

The press statement also notes:

"Federal-level fingerprint based background checks are the most comprehensive means available to ensure patient safety and transparency. Currently, Colorado relies on self-disclosure to ensure doctors do not have past criminal convictions that would flag them as potentially unfit to provide care."

Testifying in support of the bill at Thursday's committee hearing was Michelle Shelley, the mother of a young girl with special needs who was abused by a registered nurse hired to care for her last summer in the family's home.

"Her bed is no longer a peaceful place of rest. It is filled with nightmares," Shelley told the committee. "The abuse shouldn't have ever happened. Today I ask you to support the Patient Safety Act because we have an obligation to add this protection for those who cannot speak."

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