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Continued: Nov. 11, 2013: Patients, families are in the dark over risky Minnesota nurses

  • Article by: BRANDON STAHL , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 18, 2014 - 10:59 PM

Records show that since 2010, only two nurses lost their licenses after being found responsible for serious or repeated maltreatment. Eight are still able to practice.

Nine were allowed to continue to practice until they retired or lost their license following more misconduct. One of them was Kara Wenger, who was twice found responsible for child maltreatment in 2007 and 2009 after being accused of using drugs in front of her child and abandoning the minor in a gas station parking lot for 15 minutes, according to a Nursing Board report.

That recurring maltreatment would have disqualified an unlicensed caregiver from direct care, Kerber said. However, DHS forwarded her case to the Nursing Board, which took no action against her at the time.

Wenger began working at a Winona senior living facility in October 2010. Her maltreatment would not have shown up on her employer’s background check. The Department of Human Services reports only maltreatment that results in disqualification, Kerber said.

Nine days after she was hired, Wenger was fired due to concerns over her professional conduct, the Nursing Board report said. When the facility suspected Wenger had stolen hydrocodone tablets, the Nursing Board asked to meet with her three times in January and February 2011, the board report said. Wenger failed to attend any of those meetings and was suspended in April 2012.


Stealing from a child

Kelli Ingalls obtained a nursing license and landed a job without anyone asking about her drug history.

In 2008, Morrison County social workers found Ingalls was responsible for maltreatment, three years after she was accused of making meth in her basement while her child was home. During the investigation, Ingalls tested positive for meth and said she used marijuana two to three times a week, according to a Nursing Board report.

Ingalls, 48, of Deerwood, Minn., told the Star Tribune that she did not make meth but acknowledged the finding of maltreatment and that she used drugs in the past.

But when Ingalls applied for a nursing license in August 2010, she wrote “No” to questions asking whether she had ever violated a drug law or abused drugs or alcohol.

Ingalls said she was not trying to mislead the board but believed, wrongly, that the board would check her background.

“I assumed if they had a question about it, they would call me,” she said.

Ingalls did not mention the maltreatment on a job application with Good Neighbor Home Health Care, either, and the company never asked her about it, she said.

Kerber, the inspector general of DHS, said nothing would have shown up on a background check of Ingalls. Kerber said DHS can report maltreatment to employers only if it means a job applicant cannot provide direct care.

But the inquiry by Good Neighbor alerted DHS that Ingalls was now a licensed nurse, so the agency informed the Nursing Board about the maltreatment finding.

Anderson, who lives a half-hour west of Brainerd, Minn., said she had no reason to worry about Ingalls. She had already used Good Neighbor without problems since her daughter Addison first started requiring 24-hour care in June 2010.

As a toddler, Addison was diagnosed with a stroke caused by Moyamoya disease, a rare disorder caused by blocked arteries at the base of the brain. She depends on caregivers for feeding, dressing and bathing, as well as for administering medications and monitoring her condition. Addison can smile and sometimes tracks people with her eyes.

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