We can't continue to allow nurses to work

The system that's supposed to protect Oregonians from incompetent nurses has holes in it large enough for convicted criminals to walk right through.

And they do.

The story of nurse Carri Lynn Borks - which was reported in last Thursday's Lake Oswego Review - demonstrates once more that the state's oversight of nurses is in need of reform but that not much is being done to fix serious shortcomings.

Borks, a licensed practical nurse, came to our attention because of her allegedly poor treatment of a patient at a Lake Oswego nursing home.

But long before Borks was hired to work at that facility, she also had grabbed the attention of law-enforcement officers. Borks has been arrested four times on drug charges and convicted twice. She also has been convicted of criminal harassment.

On top of those criminal charges, a state oversight agency found that she verbally abused a patient and provided excessively rough care in a Grants Pass nursing home.

Borks, in short, never should have been in a position to provide care to the 81-year-old stroke victim who now is complaining. And in fact, more than two years ago, the Oregon Department of Human Services told the state board of nursing that Borks' criminal record made her unfit to nurse at a DHS-regulated facility - yet the nursing board allowed her to continue nursing with an unencumbered license until Saturday.

The nursing board renewed Borks' license in April and that license remained valid until Saturday when the board, after board administrators met with members of Gov. Ted Kulongoski's staff Friday, convened an emergency board meeting Saturday and suspended the license.

While the current nursing home in question - the Pearl at Kruse Way - should have done a better job of checking Borks' background, the Oregon State Board of Nursing is primarily at fault for allowing Borks to continue working. The nursing board's licensing Web site informed the Pearl that Borks' license was in perfect standing.

It is exceedingly difficult to understand why the nursing board would consider someone with Borks' drug-related rap sheet to be qualified to care for patients and to administer medications. Her license should have been yanked years ago. The board's failure to do so shows that it isn't giving sufficient weight to the need for changes.

Following a series of crtitical stories last year that chronicled the board's lax oversight of nurses, several parties - including the nursing board - promised reforms. Here we are a year later, and the reforms have been either ineffective or not implemented at all.

The person who appoints the nursing board is Gov. Ted Kulongoski. If he wants change, he has the power to force it by demanding that nursing board members take these issues seriously or face replacement.

The board was scheduled to meet this morning and hopefully the Borks case will be front and center on the agenda. We hope significant action is taken because we don't want to see a repeat of this nonsense in the future.

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