It takes the board an average of 15 months to investigate complaints against nurses — even if the nurse in question has admitted to wrongdoing, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday.
The newspaper reported a registered nurse who was diagnosed with a prescription drug addiction was sentenced to probation and drug counseling three years ago in Bartow County. The nurse was arrested on drug charges again last year and then for a third time in April, but continued working in a doctor’s office in Austell.
The board suspended the woman’s license late Friday, saying she poses “a threat to the public health, safety and welfare and imperatively requires emergency action.”
The nurse’s first offense was in 2010 and board President Barry Cranfill said it shouldn’t have taken until November 2013 for the organization to do something.
“In order to protect the public, the Georgia Nurses Association believes nurses with substance abuse disorders need immediate intervention, professional assessment, removal from practice and referral to addiction recovery programs,” said Debbie Hackman, CEO of the Georgia Nurses Association. “Unfortunately these investigations take years, meanwhile those nurses remain in practice.”
The Georgia Nursing Board is underfunded and understaffed, Cranfill said, adding that the board imposes about $4 million in fees but is only given half that amount back from the Legislature. Because of poor record keeping, it is unclear how many cases are in the agency’s backlog.
The newspaper reported 430 nurses are on active probation in the state, and one person is assigned to monitor their compliance. The board has a staff of eight people and shares investigators with other state agencies.