Topeka State elected leaders today approved the hiring of two people to help take care of a rapidly growing backlog of complaints against nurses.
"We just can't stay on top of the number of cases," said Mary Blubaugh, who is executive administrator of the Kansas State Board of Nursing. "It's a public safety issue," Blubaugh said.
The State Finance Council, which includes Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative leaders, approved a resolution that will allow the nursing board to use its fee funds to hire two more nurse investigators.
In June, the Legislature had approved a budget that allowed the positions but had essentially disallowed the funding.
Currently, there are five investigators, who handled 2,275 cases last year, or 455 for each investigator, according to Blubaugh. In 2007, there were five investigators handling 1,200 complaints, or 240 per investigator.
Blubaugh told the council that the majority of complaints lodged against nurses deal with drug and alcohol abuse.
The agency plans to budget $148,000 per fiscal year for the hiring of two more investigators. The funds will come from the nursing board's fees. Each nurse in Kansas pays a $60 fee every two years.
Laura Sidlinger, president of the Kansas State Nurses Association, said the association supported the nursing board’s efforts to protect the safety of patients. Sidlinger said nurses who are innocent but have a complaint lodged against them want to have the complaint cleared up.
“When an allegation is made against a nurse, they would like that matter to be resolved as quickly as possible,” Sidlinger said. And that requires an adequate investigative staff, she said.
Blubaugh said the increased number of complaints against nurses corresponds with an increase in the number of nurses in Kansas since 2007 when state leaders made it a priority to train more nurses.
There are currently 64,056 nurses, which is 12,642 more than in 2007.