State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

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LITTLE
ROCK – The rate of maternal mortality in Arkansas is above the national
average, so earlier this year the legislature created a review committee to
develop new strategies for preventing women from dying during childbirth.

The
state Health Department will set up the committee with members from various
medical and public health disciplines.

The
committee will analyze the details of all pregnancy-related deaths, including
the circumstances when women die as long as a year after giving birth.
Regardless of the stated cause of death, the committee will review all the
relevant factors that may have contributed to the deaths.

Committee
members will review medical records and contact family members and other people
involved in the women’s deaths.

The
committee will recommend ways to prevent maternal deaths, such as efforts by
public health agencies and clinics to improve prenatal care.

Under
Act 829 of 2019, health care providers, facilities and pharmacies shall provide
access to medical records. The act specifies that they will not be liable in a
lawsuit for making those medical records available.

The
medical records that are provided to the committee shall not be admissible as
evidence in court, or before a regulatory board. Committee members and Health
Department staff who participate in gathering and analyzing medical records
shall not disclose them.

The
proceedings of the committee will be confidential, as will the records it
gathers and the statements of people interviewed by the committee.

If
the medical information is available from other sources and by other avenues,
it can still be used in criminal and civil proceedings.

Each
year the committee shall issue a report to the Senate and House Committees on
Public Health, Welfare and Labor and the Legislative Council. The Maternal
Mortality Review Committee’s reports shall be in aggregate form, and will not
include details that identify specific physicians or health care facilities.

Serious
illness related to pregnancy is on the increase, perhaps due to lack of access
to prenatal care and perhaps to increases in abuse of tobacco, drugs and
alcohol.

In
Arkansas, each year on average 35 women die during pregnancy or childbirth for
every 100,000 live births. The national average is 20 maternal deaths per
100,000 live births. The main causes are bleeding, blood clots, heart problems
and pre-existing chronic conditions. Public health experts estimate that half
of the maternal deaths are preventable.

School
Bus Safety

It’s
illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped and has its red lights flashing,
while children are getting off or boarding. But according to surveys by school
bus drivers, it happens more than 800 times a day in Arkansas.

The
state Education Department reported that 3,896 bus drivers in 227 Arkansas
school districts reported 884 instances of being passed illegally on April 24.
In 12 of those violations, vehicles passed the stopped bus on the right side,
where children get on and off the bus.

More
drivers participated this year than last year, when 3,258 drivers in 194
districts reported being passed illegally 857 times.

The
legislature has approved Acts 166 of 2019 and Act 2128 of 2005 to strengthen
penalties for passing a stopped school bus.

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Tammy Teague

Tammy Teague

Mansfield native, with roots in Scott County. Daughter, sister, wife and Christian. Education: 1995 MHS graduate; 1999 Arkansas Tech University Graduate - BA in Journalism. Career: Managing Editor - The Citizen; Copy Writer - Southwest Times Record; 20+ years experience in the news.

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