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Yen responds to critics over not hearing nurse practitioner bill

Oklahoma Senate
State Sen. Ervin Yen (R-Oklahoma City).
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Supporters of the bill say that the bill's passage would help toward relieving doctor shortage in rural Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY – With a health care provider shortage going largely unaddressed, particularly in rural Oklahoma, House Bill 1013, originally authored by State Rep Josh Cockroft (R-Tecumseh), failed to get a hearing in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by State Sen. Ervin Yen (R-Oklahoma City).

On social media, Yen has been criticized for not hearing the bill, which is related to the Nursing Practice Act, which many believe would have been a step in helping address Oklahoma’s medical care crisis, particularly outside the metropolitan areas of Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

But Yen explained that there are “all kinds of moving parts” in a bill of this nature, and not all of them were coming together – or even present in the final version he saw.

“I was presented with the final version of the bill on Thursday, last week,” Yen said, noting that certain issues, such as a limitation on the prescribing of prescription drugs, and issues related to nursing homes, hospice and corrections were missing in the final version, leading him to block 1013’s advancement.

Yen, in his telephone interview with Red Dirt Report, also said that as a medical doctor, with years of training, he was concerned that nurse practitioners, with no physician oversight, would have been allowed to operate everything from X-rays to CT scans to utilizing lasers – without a certified physician’s assistance or oversight.

“I don’t believe nurse practitioners are trained for any of that,” added Yen. "Oklahoma statute says a nurse practitioner needs to be supervised."

He said that the state nursing board, the Medical Board of Licensure, for instance, may need to chime in and get this worked out.

"The rules (the medical board) has regarding physician supervision aren't very clear. They need to make them clearer."

And with this being 2017, Yen isn't sure why it is a problem for a nurse practitioner to communicate with a physican who may be elsewhere.

And Yen, as we noted, has his detractors.

Bob Waldrop, who is part of Oklahoma City’s Blessed Oscar Romero Catholic Worker community was upset at Yen – a fellow Catholic – for not even hearing the bill (authored for the Senate by Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie) or offering “poor people, unisured people and people in rural areas” some comfort as to how they will receive medical care in coming months and years.

“This is a free market approach to health care,” Waldrop said in a message to Red Dirt Report on Tuesday. “But I guess our so-called, free market Republicans in the Senate aren’t interested in that kind of economic freedom.”

Yen, however, admits something needs to be done. It just was not presented to his him and his committee in a form that made sense.

“Obviously rural Oklahoma needs help,” Yen said.

Waldrop, meanwhile, said that “the default solution for poverty of politicians like Yen is that poor people should suffer and die.”

Bob Waldrop in 2015. (Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report)

But Yen said he was concerned that the bill failed to answer a number of questions he had about the kind of services a nurse practitioner or an advanced-practice nurse would be able to utilize.

Yen used a personal example, noting that his “healthy, 19-year old son” ended up in a medical situation where a PA (physician’s assistant) ordered an EKG for him by that “the EKG machine was put together improperly” and the “PA did not know how to read an EKG machine.”

Fortunately, his son called him and Yen told him to not do it, that an EKG was not necessary.

Asked if he was getting calls from the public about him not hearing HB 1013, Yen said “not that many,” adding that “(I) probably got more people for me, on my stance, than against. The one’s who are against (my decision) don’t understand what is in the bill. The bill would have allowed nurse practitioners to do what physicians do, without going to medical school.”

Yen said that the bill is not dead and that he has “promised everybody that in the next year we will work with this and come up with something that is helpful to Oklahomans.”

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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