Former nurse at VA hospital in Des Moines agrees to surrender state license


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DES MOINES, Iowa — An ex-nurse at a Des Moines veteran's hospital has agreed to surrender his license after admitting to turning off equipment that would have alerted staff to a patient's low blood-oxygen level.

Army veteran Michael Deal, 65, died last March at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital after oxygen levels in his blood dropped.

Nurse Bernard Nesbit, 52, said he deactivated the alarms because they went off even if patients weren't in distress. He was fired following the incident and had sought unemployment benefits, which were later denied.

At his unemployment hearing, a respiratory therapist said Deal could have been saved if medical staff had been alerted.

Iowa Board of Nursing records show Nesbit agreed to give up his state license for at least a year to settle an ethics charge. The board didn't fine him or order him to undergo any specific steps before applying for reinstatement.

Executive Director Kathy Weinberg of the state's nursing board said it usually doesn't fine nurses who agree to surrender their licenses. She said if Nesbit does apply for reinstatement, he'll have to prove that he has taken steps to rehabilitee himself.

Nesbit has declined to comment to The Des Moines Register ( ). In his settlement agreement with the board, he said he "is not admitting fault or culpability" in Deal's death.

Brian Galligan, the attorney for Deal's family, said his client is glad Nesbit will be barred from working in medicine for at least a year. But he said they are also disappointed in the lack of a fine and that Nesbit could return to providing medical care to people after a year.

"There's also some concern that there's no acknowledgment of fault or responsibility for Michael Deal's death" in Nesbit's settlement agreement, Galligan said.

Information from: The Des Moines Register,

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