By: Julia Deng
ODESSA - More than a dozen former Medical Center Hospital employees are individually alleging wrongful termination and taking legal action.
They contacted NewsWest 9 following our report about Elisha Washington, 22, who was "unfairly" fired from her position as a Patient Access Representative in the hospital's Registration Department.
Washington, who was terminated on February 17 after clocking in two minutes after her shift was scheduled to begin, claimed her supervisors were guilty of both retaliation and discrimination.
Another former employee, who wished to have her name withheld and face blurred, said her role as a "whistle-blower" ultimately led to her termination in January.
She worked at MCH as a registered nurse for more than a year and a half.
"My case is basically whistle-blowing, discrimination and retaliation," she told NewsWest 9. "They call it 'insubordination.' I'm scared to even continue working as a nurse now. I'm afraid that if I go somewhere else and try to advocate for my patients, something like this can happen again."
She claimed she was unfairly targeted after calling out other nurses in her unit for making potentially deadly mistakes involving heparin, a blood-thinning medication.
According to a 2008 FDA report,"serious injuries and deaths have been associated with the use of heparin... The adverse events have included allergic or hypersensitivity-type reactions, with symptoms such as low blood pressure, angioedema, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain."
The nurse alleging wrongful termination said she had caught two "serious medication errors" involving heparin.
"The first heparin error was too much, which will cause the patient to over-bleed. The second time, the other nurses were not giving enough. They were not reading the doctor's orders, so there was a risk of the patient getting a stroke."
NewsWest 9 could not confirm her allegations without access to private medical records.
However, according to legal documents filed by her attorney, she had witnessed both mistakes and received retaliatory treatment from superiors after writing an official incident report about the second dosage error.
"That report [implicated] all of them," she explained. "That's why they wouldn't help me write it at first, and then looked for ways to push me out [of my job] when I made it clear I would not compromise patient care. I'm a staunch defender of my patients' rights. It's within my code of practice. Now, I'm even afraid to advocate for my patients. I'm even afraid to practice nursing."
Medical Center Health System representatives initially agreed to an on-camera interview with NewsWest 9, but had a change of heart prior to the scheduled meeting.
They responded instead with an emailed statement:
"As we previously communicated, we are unable to discuss specific personnel matters regarding current and former employees. However, and as you might expect, like many organizations, Medical Center Health System has written polices as guidance to inform and/or educate employees of the expectations of day to day operations in their roles. Employees have access to our policies via our intranet. When employees do not follow policy, we attempt to address the infractions through implementation of the polices, sometimes including disciplinary action. In the event an employee has a complaint regarding disciplinary action that has been taken, there are grievance steps and procedures available to the employee."