Bill advances to suspend licensed health professionals over behavior

  • Article by: BRANDON STAHL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 11, 2014 - 9:16 PM

Nurses union praises the measure, which sets a path for automatic suspensions.

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Nov. 13, 2013: Minnesota Senator Kathy Sheran, right, and House member Tina Liebling, left, of the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee and Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee listened in during a review of the Board of Nursing's licensing and disciplinary processes.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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Licensed health care pro­fes­sion­als in Minnesota whose behavior pre­sents an im­mi­nent risk of harm to their patients could be auto­mat­i­cal­ly sus­pend­ed un­der a bill passed Tues­day night by a Minnesota House committee.

The de­ter­mi­na­tion of risk would need to be made by a licens­ing board or a Health de­part­ment com­mis­sion­er, which would have 60 days to in­ves­ti­gate and hold a hear­ing with the health care pro­vid­er after a suspension.

That was one of sev­er­al pro­po­sals in­clud­ed in a bill that was prompt­ed by a se­ries of Star Tribune in­ves­ti­gat­ions last fall that found nurses have con­tinued to prac­tice de­spite crim­i­nal his­tories, including get­ting caught steal­ing drugs on the job and harm­ing pa­tients.

The House pro­pos­al, spon­sored by Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, would also re­voke the li­censes of near­ly all health care pro­vid­ers con­victed of most types of sex crimes. It would re­quire a 10-year wait­ing period fol­low­ing a sex of­fend­er’s re­lease from in­car­cer­a­tion be­fore that person could get a li­cense to prac­tice.

While a Senate ver­sion of the bill pre­sent­ed last week was heav­i­ly crit­i­cized by oth­er licens­ing boards and the Minnesota Nurses Assocation, the MNA en­dorsed the House ver­sion. In a state­ment, the MNA, the state’s larg­est nurs­ing un­ion, said the House ver­sion of the bill “of­fers the ne­ces­sary poli­cies for strength­en­ing pa­tient safe­ty and ad­dress­ing chemi­cal dependency as a chron­ic, man­age­able dis­ease.”

A pre­vi­ous ver­sion of the House bill mir­rored the Senate ver­sion, which re­quired an auto­mat­ic sus­pen­sion if a health care pro­fes­sion­al was kicked out of a state-run drug moni­tor­ing program. The up­dat­ed ver­sion pre­sent­ed Tues­day al­lowed the boards to sus­pend if the pro­fes­sion­al was dis­charged and the board be­lieved the per­son “pre­sents an im­mi­nent risk of harm.”

Liebling said she hopes to fix a gap in the sys­tem that al­lows a health pro­fes­sion­al to be dis­charged from the program but still be al­lowed to prac­tice be­fore a licens­ing board can in­ves­ti­gate.

“That gap pre­sents a re­al­ly un­ac­cept­able risk to the public,” she said.

 

Brandon Stahl • 612-673-4626

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