Winkler Whistleblower Injustice

I first read about this story at sciencebasedmedicine.org from Dr. David Gorski.  Apparently a dinkus doctor at the Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit, TX was performing questionable medical procedures and hawking herbal treatments – from his personal side business – in the emergency rooms to his patients.  A couple of nurses, Anne Mitchell and Vickilyn Gall,  anonymously reported him to the Texas Medical Board.  Yeah!  Go, ladies!

When Dr. Dinkus, excuse me – Dr. Rolando Arafiles – found out that a complaint had been filed against him, he went to extraordinary measures to discover who had placed the complaint, which makes a laughingstock of the idea that one should be able to anonymously report injustices, abuses, and quality violations without fear of retaliation.  After being identified as the complainants, Nurse Mitchell and Nurse Gall were dismissed from their positions.  Gee, I wonder why they filed an anonymous report? 

To add to the outrage: Aside from being unjustly fired, the nurses were threatened with a jail sentence of  up to TEN YEARS and a fine of $10,000!  Charges were dropped for one of the women, Nurse Galle, but Nurse Mitchell’s trial for “misuse of official information,” a third-degree felony in Texas, started yesterday. 

In his defense, Dr. Dinkus – darn it, did it again – Dr. Arafiles says that he is the victim here.  He claims that Nurse Mitchell has a history of making inflammatory statements about him, and that she was trying to damage his career when she filed the complaint.  If this *is* a case of unfair harrassment against Dr. Din…Arafiles, I’m interested in legal route he’s chosen.  There is no way he looks like a sympathetic character here…why isn’t he highlighting previous instances of harrassment, slander, etc? Surely he’s filed complaints against the nurses in the past, and of course the hospital administration can provide adequate reasoning for firing the nurses that have nothing to do with retaliation for reporting a doctor for unsafe medical practices, right?  Riiiight.  Somehow, I think not.

There are ALWAYS good places and causes to which we can send our hard-earned money, but this case has irked me enough to open my wallet.  If you’d like to help support Nurses Mitchell and Galle, the Texas Nurses Association is accepting donations, and matching every dollar donated up to $5000.  Consider giving, and if not with money, then consider spreading the news of this story.  These women’s long careers at Winkler County Memorial Hospital are over, and Nurse Mitchell is being threatened with imprisonment for reporting unsafe medical practices, which is a legal obligation – not harassment. 

Other sources:
Texas Nurses Association
ABCnews.go.com – 2/9/2010
NYTimes.com – 2/6/2010
Advance for Nurses – 2/8/2010

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2 Responses to “Winkler Whistleblower Injustice”

  1. Hubby Says:

    On February 11, the West Texas jury took only an hour to acquit Nurse Anne Mitchell of the third-degree felony charge of “misuse of official information.” This is great news for all of us. Not only when you are a hospital patient, but when you are morally or legally obligated to report any kind of misconduct or suspicion of misconduct. As John Adams wrote, we are “a government of laws and not of men”. This is the notion that in a free country, we are judged by the rule of law and are not subjected to arbitrary judgements of a ruler or hospital administrator. A boss or company official can make arbitrary judgements but he/she is not above the law. A story like this makes me proud to be an American.
    I found the trial update at
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/12/us/12nurses.html
    and the John Adams quote at
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_law

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