Since The Examiner interviewed Rep. Tony Shipley (R-Kingsport) last week about his very limited role and that of Representative Dale Ford (R-Jonesborough) in the case of three Upper East Tennessee nurse-practitioners whose licenses were suspended by the Tennessee Board of Nursing and later re-instated, we speculated on whether anyone in the executive branch may have known about the situation, since the Board of Nursing is a part of the Tennessee Department of Health-an executive department. There has been much discussion in some East Tennessee press media with regards to whether Shipley and Ford overstepped their bounds. We now know that Representative Ford did have a meeting in his office with regard to the suspensions and simply asked if the case could be looked at again. Present at that meeting, according to Hank Hayes, the Kingsport Times-News, and Tom Humphrey of the Knoxville News Sentinel, was Tennessee Commissioner of Health Susan Cooper. According to Hayes’ report, which was essentially republished by Humphrey on his weblog. Also present was senior Haslam advisor Dale Kelly, who handles legislative affairs. Hence, it does seem highly unlikely that the Governor had no knowledge at all of the case in question, and if he didn’t before the aforementioned meeting in Dale Ford’s office, he very well might have after that meeting took place.
How is it that anyone can claim that a fair and judicial process could be conducted on such a serious matter as potentially ending the professional careers of three people by way of a telephonic meeting? As further details of the suspensions of Nurses Reynolds, Killebrew, and Stout emerge, we now know that the hearing where the nurses’ licenses were suspended was a meeting of the State Board of Nursing held by way of a telephone exchange. In other words, the members thought it fine and dandy to end someone’s career without being able to see and talk to them in person, or examine potential evidence in the same room. These kinds of meetings are standard procedure for many of our State boards and commissions, and that’s fine-so long as the matters being discussed do not involve a judiciary process of examining evidence and finding fact. Attempting to conduct a hearing based on presented evidence via teleconference is like trying to have umpires call a baseball game without being physically present, but watching on television-the calls may not be reflective of what is actually occuring. Anyone who has ever been on the board of an organization that regularly conducts telephonic meetings can tell you of the routine logistical problems that are a part of such a setup.
These nurses had the right to ask for a real hearing in a real room filled with real, present board members and real testimony and evidence. They had a right to ask for the evidence to be credibly re-examined, and a right to ask legislators for help in bringing that about.