Thursday, July 30, 2009

St. Joe's nurses fired

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 5:07 PM

The four St. Joseph Hospital ICU nurses and one clinical supervisor accused of over-sedating patients and ignoring proper medication schedules while maintaining a "party-like atmosphere" during night shifts (see previous post here) have been officially fired, according to Wes Thornton, one of the terminated nurses.

Hospital administrators stated in each termination letter that they "may" still contact the state Board of Registered Nursing, Thornton said -- a statement he interpreted as a threat designed to intimidate. "This [being reported to the BRN] would open a big can of worms for us and involve us in all sorts of hearings and such," Thornton said in an e-mail Thursday afternoon. "They know this and are using this to keep us quiet. For me this works."

According to Thornton, other nurses intend to file grievances with the California Nurses Association.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph Hospital Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Brannigan today issued this memo warning employees about media inquiries into the matter. A copy of the memo was leaked to the Journal anonymously. Of particular note is Brannigan's assertion that the hospital's "commitment to protecting the dignity of each worker remains at the forefront of everything we do," a misstatement, presumably, since one would hope that patient care is at the forefront of their priorities.

Asked whether or not she could confirm that the nurses were indeed fired today, St. Joseph spokesperson Courtney Hunt-Munther said she could not, though she did issue another (non-)statement:

St. Joseph Hospital remains focused on ensuring the highest quality of care for our patients and their families, while maintaining a quality work environment for all of our employees. With respect to all personnel matters, we honor the dignity of each worker by not discussing or sharing information that is considered confidential. As with all cases involving questions or concerns about employee performance, St. Joseph Hospital treats each employee situation with utmost respect and we follow a thorough individual review process to ensure fair and consistent treatment for each employee. This process also provides an opportunity for each employee to speak on his/her own behalf. These standards of fairness were applied in the current case involving the ICU employees.

Any time an employee or patient raises concerns we treat each matter seriously. When a concern involving an employee is raised, we may place the employee in question on administrative leave until the issue can be reviewed expeditiously. If concerns are found to have merit, we will take appropriate actions in accordance with our policies and procedures.

The hospital's parent organization, the Catholic order of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, maintains a "news room" on its Web site featuring statements on such controversial topics as poverty, immigration and global warming. So perhaps, in addition to showing respect for their employees' dignity/anonymity, the group's uber-tight lips reflect a certain media savvy.

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Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns

Bio:
Ryan Burns worked for the Journal from 2008 to 2013, covering a diverse mix of North Coast subjects, from education, politics and marijuana to human suspension, sex parties and amateur fight contests. He won awards for investigative reporting, feature stories and news coverage.

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