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LPNs troubles were known two years ago by the state

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More than two years ago, the Oregon Department of Human Services told the state board of nursing that Carri Lynn 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.

Borks is the licensed practical nurse who two weeks ago was fired from her position at a Lake Oswego nursing home amid allegations of patient abuse. The situation was the focus of a story in last week's Lake Oswego Review.

Through Friday, however, Borks' license with the state nursing board remained intact and gave no hint of problems, in spite of Borks' history of drug arrests and convictions stretching back five years, and DHS finding her responsible for patient abuse at a previous nursing home.

In fact, the board renewed Borks' license in April.

The state nursing board, after board administrators met with members of Gov. Ted Kulongoski's staff Friday, convened an emergency board meeting Saturday and suspended Borks' license.

The meeting among nursing board and governor's office staff came just after the article about Borks, her past and her clean nursing-board record.

Bill Buckley, criminal records unit manager for DHS, said Monday that in early 2005 Borks applied for a job at a Hillsboro nursing home. DHS officials, according to Buckley, performed a criminal records check on Borks and - because of her criminal record -did not give the facility the required approval to hire her.

Buckley said DHS officials then relayed that information to the nursing board.

Buckley said that in late 2006, Borks applied for a job at an Oregon City nursing home run by Avamere Health Services. Buckley said DHS sent Avamere a notice that denied approval for Borks' employment as a nurse at the facility.

Yet Avamere hired her - in apparent defiance of state law - and in January, after a fire at the Oregon City nursing home, transferred Borks to its Lake Oswego nursing home - the Pearl at Kruse Way.

Three weeks ago, the daughters of an 81-year-old stroke patient at the Pearl charged that Borks verbally abused their mother, who ended up in a hospital emergency department after she began bleeding from an area around a feeding tube that had become dislodged while at the nursing home.

She also had swelling and bleeding from bruises on her arm.

Bob Schneider, chief executive officer at Avamere Health Services, said last week that DHS had given his company permission to hire Borks.

Yet on Monday, Buckley of DHS said he has no idea why Schneider said DHS had approved Borks for hire.

'I don't have an answer for that,' he said. 'It's erroneous.'

Buckley said that after DHS officials found Borks' criminal record in the records check for the Hillsboro nursing home, 'there was communication' between DHS officials and the nursing board 'that went back to the board of nursing.'

The operations of the state nursing board have been under scrutiny since the Portland Tribune ran a series of stories 15 months ago that detailed lax oversight of problem nurses by the board.

Sen. Avel Gordly, I-Portland, who serves on a legislative public health committee, has been critical of the board in recent months. She said last week that it is 'outrageous and totally unacceptable' that the board renewed Borks' license.

The renewal 'appears as an example of incompetence that can't be explained away,' Gordly said.

As far as Gordly is concerned, Borks' license should have been revoked in 2002, when DHS found her responsible for verbally and physically abusing patients at a Grants Pass nursing home.

'That should have been the end of the career there,' Gordly said. 'You don't get to continue in nursing when you have verbally abused or physically abused patients. Everything that happened after that is just so outrageous. You have to question the competency of the agency and its ability to weed out people who clearly don't belong in the profession.'

Gordly said she is having legislative staff members draft a bill that would make changes in how the nursing board operates. She said on Friday that the revelations about Borks may provide the bill with the impetus to gain support.

'I think that this is going to be the incident that gets everybody's attention,' she said.

Meanwhile, Gordly said, the very composition of the nursing board needs to be reviewed, and she said Kulongoski, who appoints the board members, should take the lead in doing so.

'I think this is a conversation that needs to take place in the governor's office, looking at the leadership of the agency and the makeup of the board,' Gordly said. 'They may need to start anew with new people at the helm.'

The daughters of the 81-year-old nursing home patient, Margaret Barber, said they plan to be at a nursing board meeting today, at which Borks is likely to be discussed.

'I'm going to ask them how they could let this happen,' said Nora Biege, one of Barber's daughters. She believes the ultimate responsibility for Borks' actions lies with the board.

'At this point who's the bad guy?' Beige asks. 'Is it Carri because she kept her license, or the board because it allowed her to continue practicing?'

Margaret Barber recovered enough last week that she was able to leave the hospital and resume rehabilitation therapy. Her family chose to go back to the Pearl at Kruse Way.

'The best time to fly is after a crash,' Biege said in describing the decision. She explained that the nursing home has addressed the family's major concerns. 'Going someplace else we may run into the same concerns but not be aware of them,' she said.

Kulongoski spokeswoman Anna Richter Taylor said Monday that a number of longer-range changes to the way the board of nursing operates are being considered. Meetings between the governor's staff and board of nursing administrators continued Monday.

'We know there are some issues right now that need to be addressed,' Richter Taylor said. 'The conversations are not over.'

The nursing board meeting will be held 9 a.m. today at the state office building, 800 N.E. Oregon St.