OLA: For public safety’s sake, Board of Nursing needs to react quicker

The Board of Nursing has taken too long to suspend nurses when there is a threat to public safety, according to an evaluation report released Thursday by the Office of the Legislative Auditor.The board has made better use of its authority to suspend nurses last year, when seven received suspensions. It will use the findings to support its ongoing work to improve efficiencies, Board President Deborah Haagenson told the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee.The auditor examined the board’s complaint resolution process after a series of 2013 media articles criticized nurses returning to practice following suspensions. Project Manager Jo Vos said half of the recommended changes affect the board, while the other changes would take legislative action.Among its in-depth look, Vos said the office looked at four characteristics of board actions: timeliness, fairness, consistency and reasonableness.Timeliness to process cases neededOn average, the board receives nearly 2,000 complaints per year, which amounts to about 1.5 percent of all licensed nurses in the state. Complaints can be categorized as practice related, such as making treatment mistakes, or more serious complaints such as drug or alcohol abuse/addiction.A majority of cases investigated are dismissed; others may include disciplinary action, such as a letter of reprimand in a personnel file; and the board may also opt for revoking a license.In substance abuse cases, a nurse has the option of self-reporting and entering an alternative disciplinary monitoring program called the Health Professionals Services Program.The program enables a nurse to continue practicing at some level during their recovery, with HPSP oversight for up to three years. There are varying reasons why a nurse may not finish the program, in which case HPSP notifies the board that the nurse is noncompliant and their license is suspended. Continue Reading

Public health spending focuses on children, mentally ill

Minnesota’s greatest health challenges fall into two categories: children living in poverty and gaps in care for people with mental illness, according to Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson.For the past two days, Jesson and division directors laid out Gov. Mark Dayton’s health care proposals to the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, which took no action.The governor’s overall proposed $35.5 billion budget for the Department of Human Services includes $12.8 billion from the General Fund, about $176.5 million more than the projected base funding for the 2016-2017 biennium. The remaining department operating funds come from the Health Care Access Fund, federal matches, lottery revenues, special revenue fund and fees for services.Not all of the initiatives would require changes in law, but many do.Caring for the childrenA disproportionate number of babies born to mothers addicted to opioids occur in tribal communities. Department officials are calling for early, in-utero intervention, which may result in public fund savings because it’s more expensive to treat the babies in the neonatal intensive care unit after birth. The grant program would enable clinics to target pregnant at-risk women and direct them into services for substance abuse and public health services.To improve access to quality child care, regulations for assistance would be simplified and the Basic Sliding Fee program for child care would be expanded to reduce the number of families on waiting lists. The sliding fee is capped and some counties have long waiting periods for families that qualify. Continue Reading