Whistleblower nurses to split $750K settlement

Two Texas nurses who were fired and charged for filing a complaint against a doctor whose medical practices they deemed improper will split a $750,000 settlement reached in a lawsuit against the physician and Winkler County officials, the New York Times reports.

The nurses, Anne Mitchell and Vickilyn Galle, in 2009 sent an unsigned letter to state regulators outlining concerns with Dr. Rolando G. Arafiles Jr., according to the Houston Chronicle. They alleged that the doctor violated rules by failing to maintain adequate medical records, using poor medical judgment, and providing substandard treatment for patients, among many violations.

After Arafiles asked the Winkler County sheriff, a friend and patient, to investigate who sent the letter, both women were charged with misuse of information. State and national nursing associations took up the nurses' cause and warned that the prosecution could mute the reporting of medical misconduct.

Mitchell was acquitted in February. Charges against Galle were dropped.

Their lawsuit filed in federal court claimed that they had been subject to vindictive prosecution and denied their First Amendment rights, the Times reports. The hospital and county agreed to settle, but did not acknowledge liability.

Both nurses handled quality assurance and regulatory compliance when they worked at Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit, Texas. Neither nurse has been able to find relevant work since they were dismissed as nursing administrators in 2009, their lawyer told the Times.

The doctor still works at the hospital. His license may be limited or revoked at a future hearing.

To learn more:
- read the New York Times story
- see the Houston Chronicle story

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