Whistleblower Says She Was Fired from Hospital for Pointing Out Patient Safety Concerns

Whistleblower Says She Was Fired from Hospital for Pointing Out Patient Safety Concerns
Political Health

A whistleblowing nurse who used to work at a Kaiser hospital says that she was fired for looking after patients’ health. After voicing concerns over cost-cutting initiatives that might jeopardize patient safety and complaining about state labor violations she observed at the hospital, she was let go.

The registered nurse, Mercedita Desumala first began working for Kaiser in 2005. She recently filed a lawsuit against Kaiser in Alameda Superior Court, alleging she was fired from San Leandro Hospital in Oakland after complaining about the removal of monitor technicians from the hospital’s fifth floor telemetry department.

In her 33-page complaint, she states:

“The fifth floor … was traditionally staffed by monitor technicians who are entrusted with the crucial job of monitoring the heart rhythms of patients on the floor. If … irregularities are not caught, they can be extremely dangerous and often fatal for the patients. As part of a cost-saving initiative, Kaiser removed all the monitor technicians from the fifth floor of the San Leandro Hospital.”

The nurse believes that this move puts patients’ lives as risk, and after submitting Assignment Despite Objection forms to the California Nurses’ Association as well as making verbal complaints to supervisors, specifically nurse manager Norie Bustamente, she was fired from her position.

Desumala says that Kaiser retaliated in part because administrators knew the nurses’ union would send a copy of the forms to the California Department of Health Care Services and were aggravated that she kept notes about work conditions.

Her complaint further explains that she kept meticulous records in order to prevent a lethal mistake.

“[She] also kept these records because she felt the threat to patient health and safety posed a risk to her own nursing license and she wanted to have a record of her work if an issue were to arise.”

Desumala says that Kaiser expected nurses to work extra hours, even when they were short-staffed, and to pick up the slack that the monitors might normally account for.

She says nurses were “dangerously fatigued” as a result and that they were put under the microscope for working overtime.

“Often, when Ms. Desumala and other nurses worked overtime, Kaiser forced them to justify working these extra hours,” according to the complaint. “These interrogations and requests for justifications from Kaiser would come days or weeks after the dates in question. Without her client worksheets, Ms. Desumala would not have been able to point to the specific reasons as to why she was forced to work late on a specific date.”

The complaint also states that her superiors continued to ignore her concerns even after she was harassed and treated badly by those who had the power to submit her concerns to higher level staff at the hospital.