Hill receives maximum penalty
By Tom Blakey
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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Board of Nursing unanimously approved a
consent order at Thursday’s board hearing, revoking nurse anesthetist
Jim Hill’s license for five years and ordering him to pay a $99,000 fine
within 30 days.
The order represented the maximum penalties under Oklahoma statutes.
Nursing Board members, in light of the Hill case, requested that
legislation be enacted to remove the five-year limit.
“Unfortunately, that won’t be done in time to affect this case,” said
Kim Glazier, executive director of the Nursing Board. However, the board
“can reject his reinstatement every five years,” Glazier said.
Hill, 55, was charged by the Nursing Board with failure to use proper
infection control techniques and adequately care for patients while
practicing at the Norman Regional Hospital Pain Management Clinic,
leading to the contraction of hepatitis C by 38 patients, and hepatitis
B by 10 patients, at Norman Regional Hospital between May 1999 and June
The board had first considered the matter at its Nov. 21 board
hearing, and rejected a consent order at the time that called for Hill
to surrender his license and pay a $61,000 fine.
The consent order agreed to Thursday called for Hill’s license to be
revoked, rather than surrendered. At the Nov. 21 hearing, Nursing Board
President Karen Fletcher said the board was “uncomfortable taking the
action as the consent order states.” The issue is one of surrender
versus revocation, Fletcher said.
“The difference is the language,” said Betty Smelser, Nursing Board
nurse investigator. “Mr. Hill was willing to surrender his license, but
the board rejected that and made a decision to revoke it.”
The $99,000 fine was based on recent figures released by the state
Health Department, and calculated by multiplying the known number of
patients tested for hepatitis C (750) by the $100 maximum fine, or
$75,000, added to the number of patients at Norman Regional diagnosed
with hepatitis C (38), multiplied by $500 (the maximum five-day, maximum
$100 fine), or $19,000; added to the number of patients at Norman
Regional diagnosed with hepatitis B (10), multiplied by $500 (the
maximum five-day, maximum $100 fine), or $5,000.
Hill and his attorneys did not appear at the board’s public hearing,
conducted Thursday at the Airport Holiday Inn Conference Center in
Fletcher read the complaint at the outset of the proceedings, saying
Hill “regularly engaged in the practice of reusing the same needle and
syringe to inject anesthetic medications such as Versed, Fentanyl and
Propofol, to patients through their existing heparin locks …”
A heparin lock is a device used to keep an IV catheter from clotting
Board attorney Charles Green read Hill’s written response to the
amended complaint, saying, in part, that Hill “never intentionally
exposed any patients to a risk of harm and never thought he was placing
any patient at risk by his anesthesia techniques. (Hill) did not believe
that there was any potential for the upstream back flow of blood to
contaminate the needles or syringes he was using.”
The board voted unanimously to accept the consent order, which had
been reached among Hill’s attorneys Michael McMillin and Stephen
Peterson, Nurse Investigator Smelser and Nursing Board staff.
“There’s no way to describe the anger I felt when I heard (Hill’s
statement),” Barbara Burlingame said after the hearing. “How can he be a
nurse and not know you’re not supposed to re-use a needle?”
Burlingame became sick last April, and, because of tests showing her
liver enzymes were “off the wall,” had her gall bladder removed. ”We
weren’t worried about hepatitis — there was no way I could’ve been
exposed,” Burlingame said.
Meanwhile, Burlingame’s gastroenterologist at Norman Regional
Hospital, Dr. Phillip Bird, noticed six of his patients, including
Burlingame, were exhibiting signs of hepatitis C. Bird plotted the
hospital’s Pain Center as the common denominator among the patients, and
hospital and health department officials launched an investigation
leading to the discovery of the hepatitis C outbreak.
“Five years is not enough — I hope he never gets his license back,”
Reporter Tom Blakey covers city government and can be reached at
366-3540 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.