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Proposed reforms

Legislation introduced by Gov. Mark Warner and Delegate Winsome E. Sears, R-Norfolk, aims to reform the Virginia Board of Medicine and increase its power to protect patients.

- Permit the medical board to act after a single case of negligence. Current law bars the board from revoking a license unless it can prove a pattern of negligence.

- Allow regulators to issue a "confidential" letter of concern — which would be kept secret and would not be available to the public — in lieu of disciplinary action in cases where there is little or no injury to a patient. The letters could prescribe remedial action such as counseling or additional education.

- Increase penalties and set mandatory minimum fines for hospitals and doctors who fail to report cases of negligence.

- Require increased reporting by hospitals of negligence.

- Increase public disclosure of some state disciplinary actions.

- Require a three-year waiting period — increased from the current wait of one year — before a physician can apply for reinstatement of his or her license.

The House unanimously passed Sears' bill, HB 1441, Jan. 24. It is now under consideration by the

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