Two nurses, Anne Mitchell and Vicki Galle, blew the whistle on physician Rolando Arafiles for a variety of charges that included unprofessional conduct at Winkler County Memorial Hospital in what they thought was a confidential report to the state board for medicine. Instead of the physician being investigated, the nurses found themselves the target of unprofessional conduct brought by the physician’s friends, Sheriff Robert Roberts and County Attorney Scott Tidwell, and were fired from their jobs by hospital adminstrator Stan Wiley. The charges were dropped for Galle and Mitchell was acquited by a jury that deliberated for one hour. Now Roberts, Tidwell and Wiley (who resigned from his position at the hospital in October) have been indicted for retaliating against the whistleblowers.
This is very good news for patients. Nurse must be able to report physicians, administrators, or other health care providers (including other nurses) who are unsafe or engaging in illegal activities, then patients will not be safe. These nurses went through hell after doing what they knew was in the best interests of patients and the hospital would not take action against the physician. It cost them their jobs, crippled them financially, and besmirched their reputations. Nurses I spoke with said that if they didn’t get exonerated and if those involved in the retaliation were not held accountable, it would make them think twice about reporting unsafe practices. Here’s hoping the jury throws the book on these three fellows for their retaliation and potentially jeopardizing the interests of the public.
Diana J. Mason, PhD, RN, FAAN, Rudin Professor of Nursing