Flashes in the Frying Pan
I was wondering why I was receiving such hateful phone calls concerning my sponsorship of HB 2028. Then someone pointed out the charming piece in New Times' Flashes column of March 27. I understand why no one was willing to sign the article.
Tough public debate about controversial issues is an essential part of the legislative process. Distorting the facts, or just making them up, as the Flashes author has done concerning HB 2028, is not, however, a legitimate part of that process. This writer claims I want to protect derelict doctors from public scrutiny, to prevent state regulatory boards from investigating public complaints about alcohol or drug abuse and that doctors with "bad track records" concerning alcohol and drugs will be shielded from the public and protected from investigation.
Pretty shocking--except that none of it is true, a fact the Flashes writer would have known had he or she actually read HB 2028.
Far from being a vehicle to protect doctors with "bad track records," the program outlined in HB 2028 will not accept a single medical professional with so much as a single complaint or report lodged against him or her. No investigation will stop, no regulatory agency will be limited and no public record will become confidential because no doctor or medical-care provider being investigated for even a single complaint is eligible for the program outlined in HB 2028. The current laws covering this area remain intact, and any medical professional against whom a complaint is lodged or a report filed will go through the exact process being used now.
HB 2028 will provide confidentiality and treatment only to those with a clean track record who come forward on their own to seek help. Any complaint will automatically disqualify that person from eligibility precisely so the investigatory process, public and private, can go forth unimpeded. Further, those who do seek assistance from this treatment program, and who qualify, will be required to suspend their practice entirely for at least 30 days and perhaps as long as six months. Even then, their practice may be restricted when they return, and they will be monitored for at least five years.
What HB 2028 tries to do is give medical professionals an opportunity to obtain treatment before they develop a "bad track record"--to stop serious problems before they exist. No one who has filed a complaint against a medical professional, or intends to, need worry that this program can be used by medical professionals to hide from the consequences of their behavior because they will not be in this program. It is just that simple.
Whoever authored this Flashes section must have confused the journalistic standards of the New Times tabloid with those usually found in the tabloids in check-out lines. Its readers deserve better.
Susan Gerard, state representative
Editor's note: No amount of indignation can mask the odiousness of this legislation. HB 2028 is not only a bad idea, it's badly written--there are loopholes large enough for an impaired doctor to drive through. Contrary to Ms. Gerard's assurances, the text of her bill does not even contain the word "complaint." HB 2028 says a doctor "shall voluntarily agree to participate in a substance abuse program prior to the regulatory board's initiation of an investigation." But it does not define when an investigation begins. HB 2028 contains provisions for notification of hospitals, clinics and other places that employ drug- or alcohol-abusing doctors and nurses; everybody gets informed but the patients. The auditor general concluded in 1994 that "the public is not being adequately protected" by its lax state Board of Medical Examiners. The auditor general and public-interest groups have urged the Legislature to increase accountability by expanding public access to health-care professionals' records. Gerard's bill does the opposite.
News Are Our Business
I thought I'd express my liking for Tony Ortega's well-written piece about KNXV-TV Channel 15 ("Chit Happens," April 3). What I respected was Ortega's thorough and knowledgeable articulation of the state of TV-news journalism standards in Arizona. Live camera shots of a reporter on the 202 freeway with a hard hat, another one chasing ambulances and still others peeking through dark alleys. No wonder we end up stuck with sensationalist seekers like Fife Symington, Joe Arpaio and J.D. Hayworth calling the shots.
Oh, please! How can New Times seriously suggest that KNXV-TV Channel 15's "upstart, offbeat newscast" was any better than any other local newscast? The only significant difference between News 15 and any of the others was that it tended to make you seasick while it insulted your intelligence.
I became a loyal viewer to Channel 15 thanks to its efforts at providing the city's only investigative reporting worth listening to. And writer Tony Ortega is off the mark in his critique of Marc Bailey. I think Bailey is an extremely smooth, witty and capable news anchor. I have always enjoyed Ed Phillips' weather forecasts, and I think most of News 15's reporters are solid.
Tony Ortega was right on--unfortunately--with his story "Chit Happens." This Valley is full of soft, cheesecake-style newscasts where the emphasis is on making viewers happy versus reporting on issues we should know about. I'm sure that the emphasis on personality and the heavy dosage of soft features make state government and Arizona business very happy.
Channel 15 was a breath of fresh air. The fast-paced style was a relief from the pabulum everywhere else. Channel 15 used to be the alternative; now it's mainstream. Too bad. Station management is doing the Valley a disservice.
It is unfortunate that New Times seems obsessed with trashing the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, and Hugo Zettler in particular. From Amy Silverman's article "Not Victim Enough" (March 27), one could infer, without any supporting evidence, that Zettler may not have zealously attempted to indict Michael Logan. This assertion is outrageous. Zettler has dedicated his life to prosecuting criminals and has been recognized by his peers for his ability to do so.
I am certain that Zettler zealously advocated the state's position in attempting to indict Michael Logan. Otherwise, he would not have presented the case to the grand jury. It was the grand jury that decided not to prosecute this case, not Zettler.
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It must be nice to be in a position to second-guess the difficult daily decisions made by prosecutors. Maybe next time New Times will do so, it will offer some support for its allegations, not just its speculation and conjecture.
Christopher T. Whitten
Editor's note: Zealous as Mr. Zettler might have been, the County Attorney's Office is reviewing the case, and may present it to a new grand jury.