There’s a federal database that tracks health professionals who have been disciplined. The point of the system is to let hospitals and others know about practitioners’ problems before hiring them.

ProPublica reports that state agencies have not been reporting to the database, leading to data gaps and possibly incomplete information.

All states are required by law to report the licensed health workers they’ve sanctioned to databases run by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). But ProPublica found that many state agencies either didn’t know about the requirement or simply weren’t complying.

The failure to report means frontline health workers who have a record of on-the-job misconduct, incompetence or criminal acts aren’t flagged to hospitals or other potential employers, who pay a fee to run checks on job applicants.

Wisconsin, for example, has not reported sanctions against emergency medical technicians. The state’s Department of Health Services website, however, shows that more than two dozen EMTs have been disciplined, including several for criminal convictions and one for stealing drugs from an ambulance.

ProPublica has charted which states are not in compliance with specific fields of medicine, and among the worst states is Kentucky.

Twenty-one states and Puerto Rico were thus chastised for not reporting on at least one category of health professional or ignoring the government’s requests for information. Kentucky was flagged for 10 professions; Louisiana, six; and Alabama and New Mexico, five each.

The Rural Blog points out that many disciplined providers relocate to rural areas, where medical professionals are often scarce.

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