Patients, families are in the dark over risky Minnesota nurses

  • Article by: Brandon Stahl , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 14, 2013 - 9:51 AM

Nurses with histories of drug use, crime or neglect obtain licenses and find jobs because of flaws in the state system of background checks.

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prometheus1Nov. 13, 1310:27 AM

This is a complicated issue that must be approached with thought and care as we must balance the rights of individual, imperfect employees with imperfect employers, and the healthcare seeking public which also desires privacy along with security. Should background checks include more information? Yes...but can we really trust MN DHS to conduct proper background checks when, by their own admission, they hired David Proffitt to be director of their most secure facility, Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, without even conducting a Google Search? Such a search would have shown he had run 2 mental hospitals into the ground in Maine triggering the same rash of staff injuries that he subsequently created in Minnesota? Readers of the Star Tribune should keep in mind that even AFTER Proffitt's track record was made known to DHS, the state continued to retain his services and defended his hiring until his actions became untenable. During that time, Proffitt fired doctors and nurses for "maltreatment" and reported them to the Medical and Nursing Boards to have their licenses stripped. The boards ruled against the DHS complaints because they lacked merit. With DHS failing to conduct its own background checks and using the Medical and Nursing review boards for politically motivated attacks on qualified staff, what nurse or doctor would dare to disclose anything that might be misinterpreted by a supervisor or hiring authority? Further, if we place protection of the public from potentially flawed caregivers so high that we strip them of their privacy rights...will not the difficulty in staffing these positions grow worse as good people walk away from the harassment? DHS discovered this at St. Peter when they drove out the entire psychiatric staff with their malicious attacks leaving the patients there receiving woefully inadequate treatment. The legislature's attempts to intervene here should start by holding MN DHS administrators accountable for their failings and take steps to punish those who have politicized the Medical and Nursing Review Boards. Once these boards can function independently again, the public will be better able to adjust the system to improve background checks. Further, members of the public would do well to think carefully about the privacy rights they would strip from health care providers. Many patients that care providers must deal with have troubled pasts of their own which place caregivers at risk. Should patients be required to have their histories…including drug and alcohol use, domestic violence, mental illness, petit theft, etc…. be shared with medical staff before receiving treatment? Are you prepared to walk the walk?

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YoganaziNov. 13, 13 5:21 PM

DHS is blaming the MBON for their own failure to properly background check employees. DHS should clean up their own act. DHS encourages false complaints against caregivers.

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divameisterNov. 15, 13 7:16 AM

@prometheus1 You write: "Many patients that care providers must deal with have troubled pasts of their own which place caregivers at risk. Should patients be required to have their histories…including drug and alcohol use, domestic violence, mental illness, petit theft, etc…. be shared with medical staff before receiving treatment?" Yes, patients do. It's called a history and physical.

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actualreaderNov. 17, 1310:30 PM

"Ingalls said she was not trying to mislead the board but believed, wrongly, that the board would check her background." I think a lot of us believed, apparently wrongly, that there were more barriers between patients in pain and professionals who wanted their narcotics than the drug-seeker's willingness to lie.

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