Nursing Board Leader Resigns After Governor Replaces Panel Members
On Tuesday, Ruth Ann Terry resigned as executive officer of the California Board of Registered Nursing amid continued fallout over a recent report criticizing the board's delays in resolving complaints against nurses, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Terry served as the board's executive officer for nearly 16 years and received $114,000 in yearly compensation.
Her resignation comes a day after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) fired three sitting members of the board and appointed six new members to the panel.
Schwarzenegger took action after the Times and the news organization ProPublica published an investigation finding that the board takes an average of three years and five months to settle misconduct complaints against nurses.
The governor will swear in the new board members today.
A spokesperson for Fred Aguiar -- secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency, which has jurisdiction over the board -- said the panel will hold its first meeting later this month.
Schwarzenegger said the new board will move "quickly and decisively" to address a case backlog, but the panel still faces significant obstacles in managing its workload (Ornstein/Weber, Los Angeles Times, 7/15).
Robert Fellmeth of UC-San Diego's Center for Public Interest Law said budgetary constraints have reduced the board's staff in recent years (DarcÃ©, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/14).
In addition, nursing board members are subject to the governor's mandated three furlough days per month even though the panel is entirely supported by license fees and does not rely on the state's general fund.
Schwarzenegger also has not filled two top posts at the Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the nursing board. In addition, more than 20% of investigator positions at DCA currently are vacant.
On Tuesday, Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino), chair of the Senate Business and Professions Committee, urged Schwarzenegger to cancel furlough days for members of boards that "oversee the health and safety of the public."
However, a spokesperson for the governor said Schwarzenegger has no plans to rescind the furloughs (Los Angeles Times, 7/15).
Fellmeth also suggested that lawmakers could designate a group of investigators within the state attorney general's office to investigate nursing complaints, much like they did a decade ago with the board that regulates physicians. He noted that Consumer Affairs investigators currently handle complaints about numerous other professions in addition to nursing.
Fellmeth also recommended increasing nursing license fees to raise funds for staffing increases (San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/14).
On Tuesday, NPR's "All Things Considered" reported on the Nursing Board investigation and the aftermath of its publication.
The segment includes an interview with Charles Ornstein, a ProPublica reporter who co-wrote the Times story about the report's findings ("All Things Considered," NPR, 7/14).
- Los Angeles Times : Schwarzenegger "was right to dismiss most of the Board of Registered Nursing" this week, and the dismissal provided the opportunity for the governor "to do some high-profile flexing of power at a time when he badly needs to reclaim his image as a reformer," a Times editorial states.Â If the governor had acted on the matter "when it served the public's agenda and not his own, he might have been more the action hero voters expected," the editorial concludes (Los Angeles Times, 7/15).
- San Jose Mercury News : Terry was partially correct when she "blamed the state bureaucracy" for problems with the nursing board's case management, a Mercury News editorial states, adding that various state agencies currently handle nursing complaints instead of a single "self-contained disciplinary office."Â However, the editorial continues, "it's been up to the board and Terry to identify the problems, streamline the process and seek higher fees to add staff." It concludes, "The new board will have marching orders to do so" (San Jose Mercury News, 7/14).