On April 18, 2007, a patient at an addiction and behavioral health clinic in Valdosta died after a nurse neglected to check on him for five hours, instead of every 30 minutes as required. Five years later, the Georgia Board of Nursing ordered the nurse to take remedial coursework and issued a public reprimand.
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Keeping problems out of sight
Georgia is one of a dozen states that do not require hospitals and health professionals to report to the state when a nurse has a substance abuse problem or makes medical errors endangering patients. That means hospitals or nursing homes can quietly fire a bad nurse and save the embarrassment or liability of reporting the nurse to the state for discipline.
The General Assembly this year passed a bill that contained a “mandatory reporting” provision, a measure that was supported by both the Georgia Board of Nursing and the state nurses association. The bill stipulated, however, that mandatory reporting would not go into effect unless the nursing board received additional funding to handle the anticipated increase in reports. The bill passed, but not the funding increase.
“That was the only way we could get it into law,” said Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, who sponsored the bill. “We felt it was better for the law to go into the books.”