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New California nursing board members sworn in

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says 'the board must act decisively when we find out there is a problem' but he won't fund more staff. 'Money has absolutely nothing to do with efficiency,' he says.

July 16, 2009|Michael Rothfeld

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger swore in six new members of the state nursing board Wednesday, vowing to "weed out the bad actors" among the ranks of California nurses.

The governor abruptly replaced four members of the Board of Registered Nursing and filled two vacancies this week, after publication Sunday of an investigation by The Times and the nonprofit news organization ProPublica that showed inordinate delays in disciplining wayward nurses.

The governor's action all but gutted the nine-member board. Two people are holdovers, and one seat remains vacant. The longtime executive officer, Ruth Ann Terry, tendered her resignation Tuesday.

Sunday's report found that it takes the board an average of three years and five months to investigate and close complaints against nurses, while many continue to practice despite complaints and criminal records, and documented histories of incompetence, drug abuse and poor care.

"The board must act decisively when we find out there is a problem," the governor said. "Incremental changes is not going to help. . . . It is unconscionable that the board has not acted faster."

But Schwarzenegger has not offered other concrete steps for reducing the delays. With the state in a budget crisis, he said he would not spend money to bolster staff. He also has left vacancies at top posts in the Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the board, and has put investigators that serve the board on furlough three days a month, along with other state workers.

Schwarzenegger said the board needs only the motivation to do better.

"Money has absolutely nothing to do with efficiency," he said, "to go in there and have the will to go and say, 'This nurse has committed a crime, and we are not going to let that nurse continue working on a job and continue stealing medication and continue taking medication while she is on the job or he is on the job.' "

The new board members, who sat around a table in the governor's office as Schwarzenegger spoke to reporters, are Ann Boynton, a private healthcare consultant; Judy Corless, a nurse from Corona; Jeannine Graves; a nurse from Sacramento; Richard Rice, a retired state official; Catherine Todero, a professor of nursing at San Diego State; and Kathrine Ware, a nurse from Davis.

Boynton said the new board would look at how to make changes quickly, including how investigators might better focus their time on the most critical work.

The governor "has given us a very clear directive to do everything in our power to minimize the amount of time that it takes for anyone to be investigated, for complaints to be resolved and for adequate personnel action to be taken," she said.

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michael.rothfeld@latimes.com

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