OUR VIEW: Bureaucrats forget who they work forWe’re getting tired of government bureaucrats telling us they don’t have a responsibility to provide notification of their actions to the public or media.
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
We’re getting tired of government bureaucrats telling us they don’t have a responsibility to provide notification of their actions to the public or media.
Specifically, we’re talking about government inspectors and ethical boards. Officials from the state Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners provided the most recent example in a story we published Saturday.
We learned that the board sometimes does nothing to notify the public or media when, for example, a doctor is disciplined for committing a crime such as abusing prescription drugs. The board posts such actions on its website, but that’s about it. Sometimes a notice is placed at the doctor’s practice, but as one board official told us, “We don’t always know all the clinics” where a doctor works.
Beyond those meager and scattered efforts, nothing is done to notify patients that their doctor is in the kind of trouble that could affect the care they receive. As an excuse, the board points out that all such actions are available on its website, which a patient would apparently have to monitor 365 days per year to find out if any particular doctor is being disciplined.
The Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners is not the only state regulating agency with a poor record in the area of public notification. In recent years, we’ve found similar examples in gasoline-pump and restaurant inspections. When a gas station’s pumps are found to be over-charging customers or a restaurant is closed down for repeated violations of health standards, little if anything is done to notify the affected consumers.
Amnesia seems to be the root of the problem. It’s a special kind of amnesia that makes government bureaucrats forget they are supposed to serve the public. Worse yet, in the absence of such knowledge, they begin believing they serve the people they’re supposed to regulate.
We understand how this happens. South Dakota is a small state. Government regulators deal with the same people repeatedly, and sometimes it’s people they’ve known for years. A degree of comfort develops, and when it comes time to bring down the regulatory hammer, there’s a hesitance about bringing it down hard on somebody who might be a friend, acquaintance or even just a known name.
That’s precisely why government bureaucrats in regulatory positions need to keep the people they regulate at a safe distance. They need to be professional acquaintances, and nothing more.
When a doctor, gas-station owner, restaurateur or any other regulated entity does something that endangers the public, there should be no hesitancy about alerting the public and the media. In fact, there should be a sense of urgency and a desire to go above and beyond in alerting people about the potential dangers or illegal practices that are being regulated.
The Daily Republic gets notifications from certain arms of government all the time. If a politician plays even a minor role in getting a few hundred bucks to lay a sewer pipe in Gann Valley, for example, you can bet we’ll get a press release.
But if your local doctor commits a crime, or your local gas-station is doctoring its pumps, or your local restaurant is endangering your health with unsafe practices, it’s likely the bureaucrats who regulate those things won’t do much of anything to notify you.
That inconsistency on the part of government is insulting, and we as citizens should not stand for it.