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State of Mississippi Board of Nursing v. Hobson

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 17, 2019

STATE OF MISSISSIPPI BOARD OF NURSING APPELLANT
v.
ANN HOBSON APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/12/2018

          GRENADA COUNTY CHANCERY COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MITCHELL M. LUNDY JR.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: BRETT BAGLEY THOMPSON

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: J. LAWSON HESTER

          BEFORE J. WILSON, P.J., WESTBROOKS AND LAWRENCE, JJ.

          WESTBROOKS, J.

         ¶1. On November 13, 2014, the Mississippi State Board of Nursing (the Board) filed three charges against the Appellee, Ann Hobson, pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated section 73-15-29 (Rev. 2012). Specifically, the allegations included:

Charge I. Misappropriation of drugs, supplies or equipment,
Charge II. Addiction or dependency on alcohol or other habit-forming drugs or habitual use of narcotics, barbiturates, amphetamines, hallucinogens, or other drugs having similar effect, or misappropriation of any medication, and
Charge III. Possessing, obtaining, furnishing, or administering drugs to any person, including self, except as legally directed.

         ¶2. Hobson was ordered to appear before the Board's Hearing panel (the panel) and answer for the charges at the Board's Ridgeland, Mississippi office. At the conclusion of the panel hearing, Hobson was found guilty of Charge III and subjected to disciplinary action. Hobson appealed the panel's decision to the full Board; the decision was affirmed. Unsatisfied, Hobson appealed the Board's decision to the Chancery Court of Grenada County. The chancellor reversed the Board's decision, including all coinciding disciplinary measures imposed upon Hobson. Aggrieved, the Board now appeals.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶3. Ann Hobson began her employment as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) at the Indianola, Mississippi, South Sunflower County Hospital (the Hospital) in July 2013. Her chief job duty was administering anesthesia to patients during surgery and other procedures performed in either of the Hospital's two operating rooms. As the CRNA assigned primarily to the Hospital's Operating Room Number 2 (OR 2), Hobson was given keys to the room's lock box. The box contained a number of narcotics used to sedate patients, including Demerol 25 mg. Hobson testified that Bert Romine, the head of the Hospital's Anesthesia Department, instructed her to always keep the keys to the respective lock boxes inside a hidden compartment attached to the fake top of each lock box. Hobson testified that it was her practice to lock the box and return the keys to the designated space after every procedure.

         ¶4. On June 10, 2014, Hobson reported to Sunflower Hospital at approximately 7 a.m. to prepare for a surgery scheduled to take place shortly thereafter in the hospital's OR 2. At the conclusion of the procedure, Hobson claims she administered Demerol to the patient, prepared the anesthesia equipment for the next procedure, and then turned the patient over to Nurse Leslie Moore in the Recovery Room. Moore submitted a signed statement corroborating Hobson's account and indicated she witnessed Hobson sign the narcotic log book to verify that the remaining count of Demerol in the lock box was correct after the surgery ended. After giving a report to Moore, Hobson testified that she left the hospital to return home to Grenada, Mississippi around 8:30 a.m.

         ¶5. As scrub technicians were preparing the operating rooms for afternoon procedures, they discovered the lock box in OR 2 open with the keys in the door. Supervisors were notified, and a count of the narcotics was conducted. Six vials of Demerol were discovered missing. At approximately 12:30 p.m., CRNA Bert Romine contacted Hobson, informed her of the missing Demerol, and requested that she return to the hospital. Testimony indicates Hobson arrived back on the premises at approximately 1:15 p.m. In a signed statement, LeShonda Townsend, one of the scrub technicians, reported that she witnessed Hobson enter OR 2 with her purse in hand before departing earlier in the day. Hobson was the only member of the group noted to have left the hospital premises.

         ¶6. The hospital required all persons with direct access to OR 2 to submit to "Reasonable Suspicion/Cause" drug testing for Demerol. The group included both CRNAs, the registered nurses, and the scrub technicians. The samples for the drug testing were collected on-site in one of the hospital's empty patient rooms by lab director and medical technologist Gail Bley. Bley testified that each employee, including Hobson, entered the room alone to provide a sample and remained to watch her seal a tamper-proof bag. Hobson claims she was not present when her sample was labeled or sealed; however, Hobson dated, signed, and initialed a "Chain of Custody" form, acknowledging "that the specimen container(s) was/were sealed with tamper-proof seal(s) in [her] presence; and that the information provided on this form and on the label(s) affixed to the specimen container(s) is correct." Hobson's test ...


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