Friday, January 2, 2009
Many nurses have slipped through the cracks in California. In a review by the The Times and ProPublica (a non-profit investigative newsroom) found that regulators acted late or not at all after being informed that nurses had committed serious crimes. In some instances, nurses were given their license renewals after reporting their own felonies to the California Bureau of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians.
"Obviously the public isn't protected," said John Brion, the assistant clinical professor at Duke University School of Nursing. "If you have a person who's already been convicted and served their time and they haven't even been charged by the board...I would really question what's wrong with the system.
Licensed, vocational nurse Carlito Manabat Jr. is one case. Accused by two patients of sexual battery and molestation while under his care in 2006, Manabat pleaded no contest. He served six months in jail and registered as a sex offender. In February of 2008, he renewed his license, checking the "Yes" box that indicates he has been convicted of a crime. Two years later, the bureau is investigating the matter. Meanwhile, Manabat has been nursing and continues to do so as the case is still pending.
Discrepancies such as this are quite common at the bureau. The investigation revealed that 27 nurses had 3 or more criminal convictions, and 3 had more than 9.
Hospitals and clinics rely on the information provided by the bureau to vet potential new hires. The bureau blames low staffing and received approval last year to hire more staff to handle the demand. Some nurses are fingerprinted, but not all. The only other method of checking up on nurses is to rely on their own integrity. They check that "yes" box if they've been convicted. The bureau is huge and most of the fault is likely administrative, but when public lives and health are at risk, is there really any excuse?