Governor asks senate to fund nursing board changes

Kulongoski says the body 'lacks the resources to fully protect the public'

Six months after the Portland Tribune ran a series of articles revealing trouble at the Oregon State Board of Nursing, Gov. Ted Kulongoski on Thursday said he would support additional funding for investigators to identify and discipline problem nurses.

The governor, who appoints all nursing board members and can ask for their resignations, previously has refused to comment on problems with the board and its Nurse Monitoring Program, which is charged with monitoring nurses with chemical dependencies and mental illness as they stay on the job.

In a Thursday letter to Sen. Bill Morrisette (D-Springfield), chairman of the state's Senate Interim Health Committee, Kulongoski and Attorney General Hardy Myers asked that lawmakers, in the upcoming legislative session, provide funding for a new chief investigator and authorize the hiring of additional personnel for the Nurse Monitoring Program.

In September, an independent audit of the board called the size of the Oregon Nurse Monitoring Program's staff "pitiful" and recommended a raft of changes to the 15-year-old program.

"Quite simply, the (Board of Nursing) lacks the necessary resources to fully protect the public," Kulongoski wrote.

The governor's statement comes in advance of an Interim Health Committee hearing on the board scheduled for Tuesday in Salem.

Kulongoski's letter did not address the makeup of the nine-member nursing board, an issue which Morrisette has raised in the past as a particular concern.

Seven of the nine members of the board are nurses, and Morrisette has said he supports changing the board's makeup to include a greater variety of professionals.