California’s failure to check the criminal backgrounds of health professionals encompassing tens of thousands of doctors, dentists, psychiatric technicians, and therapists, reports the Los Angeles Times. The Times had reported regulators had not vetted about 195,000 of the state’s registered and vocational nurses, exposing patients to caregivers with histories of violence, addiction, predatory behavior, or corruption. Prompted by the publicity, the state Department of Consumer Affairs identified 104,000 more professionals from all levels of medical care to add to that tally. The agency now estimates that close to a third of the state’s 937,100 licensed health care workers have not been screened through fingerprint checks.
Licensing boards maintain inconsistent rules about who must be fingerprinted and when. Fingerprints are the primary tool that regulators use to root out convictions and allow law enforcement agencies to alert regulators if a licensee has ever been arrested. “We depend on the state of California  to screen out those who are incompetent or impaired or dishonest or otherwise unqualified,” said Julianne D’Angelo Fellmeth of the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego. “If the state doesn’t do that for whatever reason, we’re all in trouble.” After the reports by The Times, which collaborated with the investigative news organization ProPublica, the state Department of Consumer Affairs moved quickly. Fingerprinting requirements were adopted because boards believed that some crimes could reflect poorly on a licensee’s character, competence or ability to safely perform the job. Gathering missing fingerprints has not been a priority.