Fired nurse files whistleblower lawsuit re: EMTALA violations

Jordan Hospital in Plymouth, Mass., is facing a whistleblower lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston by fired nurse Margaret "Peg" O'Connor, reports the Boston Globe.

O'Connor, a 38-year veteran employee of the hospital, was fired in May. She alleges the firing was direct retribution for reporting an EMTALA violation. O'Connor told federal authorities when a diabetic patient who was six months pregnant with twins was sent from Jordon's emergency room to South Shore Hospital in Weymouth without first being examined by a physician. The patient suffered serious complications, although both she and the children recovered.

A Massachusetts Department of Public Health inspector agreed that the hospital in this case violated the regulations prohibiting hospitals from transferring unstable patients who haven't been seen by a doctor, as well as finding four additional EMTALA violations. In total, the violations exposed the hospital to $250,000 in fines. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services followed up by sending an investigative team on May 19 to conduct a full-scale review. That same day, O'Connor was fired--an act O'Connor says occurred just six months after she received an exemplary performance evaluation.

"I kept thinking, how do you fire someone for reporting a wrong to a patient?'' O'Connor told the Globe. "When there is an adverse event in a hospital, there should be transparency. That's what we're there to do, protect patients.'' Jordan Hospital responded that it reported the violation immediately to the state Department of Public Health and that the firing "was entirely unrelated to any report of the EMTALA violation, and Jordan Hospital intends to vigorously defend itself against the allegations to the contrary."

Jordon Hospital, its president, board of directors, vice president of organizational development and chief medical officer are all named in the lawsuit, reports Gatehouse News Service at Wicked Local Plymouth.

To learn more:
- read this Boston Globe article
- read this article from The Patriot Ledger
- here's the Gatehouse News Service article at Wicked Local Plymouth