Two West Texas nurses have been fired from their jobs and indicted with a third-degree felony carrying potential penalties of two-to-ten years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000.
The nurses, in their 50s and both members of the American Nurses Association/Texas Nurses Association, reported concerns about a doctor practicing at Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit.
They alleged that the doctor improperly encouraging patients in the hospital emergency department and in the rural health clinic to buy his own herbal “medicines,” and they thought it improper for him to take hospital supplies to perform a procedure at a patient’s home rather than in the hospital.
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The nurses went up their chain of command with their complaints. They got nowhere with their 25-bed rural hospital. So they anonymously turned the doctor into the Texas Medical Board using six medical record numbers of the involved hospital patients .
When the medical board notified the physician that he was under investigation for mistreatment and poor quality of care, he filed a harassment complaint with the Winkler County Sheriff’s Department.
To find out who made the anonymous complaint, the sheriff left no stone unturned. He interviewed all of the patients whose medical record case numbers were listed in the report and asked the hospital to identify who would have had access to the patient records in question.
At some point, the sheriff obtained a copy of the anonymous complaint and used the description of a “female over 50” to narrow the potential complainants to the two nurses. He then got a search warrant to seize their work computers and found a copy of the letter to the medical board on one of them.
Charged by the county attorney’s office with “misuse of official information,” on July 15 a hearing in the Winkler County courthouse on motions to dismiss the nurses’ case resulted in no rulings.
The Texas Medical Board sent a letter to the attorneys stating that it is improper to criminally prosecute people for raising complaints with the board; that the complaints were confidential and not subject to subpoena; that the board is exempt from federal HIPAA law; and that, on the contrary, the board depends on reporting from health care professionals to carry out its duty of protecting the public from improper practitioners.
A hearing on the case is scheduled for Wednesday.
If you have been subjected to a Texas Board of Nursing Inquiry Letter or Texas Board of Nursing Disciplinary Process, then please contact the Dallas Texas Nurse License Defense Attorney Dr. Shezad Malik. For a no obligation, free case analysis, please call 817-255-4001 or Contact Me Online.