NASHVILLE, TN (WJHL) – Although the Tennessee Department of Health made changes to try and prevent future disciplinary delays like the ones our Community Watchdog investigation exposed last October, a new state audit found even with those improvements, the Tennessee Board of Nursing continued to take too long investigating some cases.
Top department officials answered for that audit finding and others Tuesday in front of the state’s Government Operations Committee.
Of 40 nursing investigations reviewed between November and April, a state auditor told committee members she flagged six of them, concluding the cases lagged on for longer than allowed. She found cases that were anywhere from one to 15 days late with no real explanation as to why, according to the audit. The state doesn’t think those cases put anyone in immediate risk, but Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Public Information Officer John Dunn said the potential was there. “When cases are not completed on time it could potentially put patients at risk,” he said.
In light of our investigation into disciplinary delays, the Tennessee Department of Health made changes to try and speed up the process. TDOH Investigations Division Director Antoinette Welch told lawmakers those improvements have made a difference in the majority of cases. “There are several things that we’re trying to change or things that we need to address, but 87% of the cases that we have investigated that were looked at by (the auditor) were either early or they were right on time,” Welch said. “We would tell you that 13% were not and those 13% do matter, because in some cases patients might be at risk and it’s important to close those cases on a timely basis,” Dunn said. The audit revealed the Board of Nursing reduced the amount of time allowed for investigations in certain instances last October, but increased the allowable time limit for the most serious cases. “We don’t want to rush the cases to just be good enough,” Welch said. “We want them to be good. We want our investigations to be good.” Rep. John Ragan, (R) – District 33, said that stance, particularly in the highest priority cases, is dangerous. “Please take this as a concern of the member of the General Assembly,” Rep. Ragan said during Monday’s committee meeting. “I’m concerned that five to seven days is probably too long if that is what’s considered immediate jeopardy.”
State auditors plan on asking the Board of Nursing to complete a review in six months to update its progress addressing this finding and others.
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