Trying to Understand Jerry Brown’s Veto of Calif. Nursing Board
California Gov. Jerry Brown last week vetoed a bill that would have extended the life of California’s nursing board and allowed the board to hire sworn investigators to look into misconduct.
The reason Brown gave [PDF] is that the investigators’ pensions would be large, which “makes no sense fiscally and flies in the face of much needed pension reform…The Board has existed for 106 years without these enhanced benefits and should continue to do so.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, sworn investigators are entitled to more generous pensions than other state employees.
Without passing judgment on the need for sworn investigators, it’s worth a reminder of how the board has functioned in recent years.
ProPublica and the Times reported extensively in 2009 about major problems at the board, which took more than three years, on average, to investigate and discipline nurses. A huge part of the problem was a backlog at the investigation stage. The nursing board had to share investigators with many other agencies, and complaints lingered.
The governor's veto caught nursing board officials off-guard, the Times reported. “We were not adamant about having sworn peace officers,” Board executive officer Louise Bailey told the paper. “It would have been an easy fix had we known that was their concern.”
(Bailey did not say or the Times did not ask how, as executive officer of the board, she did not know this.)
According to the Times story:
At the time of The Times’ investigation in 2009, it took an average of more than three years for complaints against nurses’ licenses to be investigated and adjudicated. The average time was down to two years at the end of the 2011 fiscal year in July.
But it still falls short of the target of 12 to 18 months set by the Department of Consumer Affairs. And recently the state’s fiscal crisis has prevented the board from hiring enforcement staff to keep up with an increasing number of complaints.
Largely because of the new enforcement efforts, the total number of complaints coming into the enforcement division more than doubled between the 2008 to 2011 fiscal years, from 3,900 to 7,977.
To read all of ProPublica's stories on the nursing board, including problems with its drug and alcohol monitoring program, check out our series page: http://www.propublica.org/series/nurses.
This is cross-posted from Healthy Buzz, a tumblr on health news and issues maintained by ProPublica reporter Charles Ornstein.