"Winkler County Nurses" win $750,000 settlement

  1. commissioners and nurse mitchell react to $750000 settlement 8/10/10

    beau berman
    cbs 7 news
    august 10, 2010

    kermit, texas -
    after their original concerns about dr. rolando arafiles were substantiated by a state fine levied against winkler county memorial hospital and an official complaint lodged against the dr., the “winkler county nurses” were “compensated” today for their damages.

    the nurses will split at nearly $1,000,000 settlement but nurse anne mitchell says this case was never about any money.

    vickilyn galle and anne mitchell believed their anonymous report to the state in 2008 would be just that, anonymous (as is prescribed by nurse reporting laws).

    there’s no way they could have predicted that standing up for patient’s rights would get them arrested, then prosecuted, then vindicated and now, more than two years later, leave them hard pressed to find a nursing job.

    the four winkler county commissioners voted unanimously tuesday afternoon, to settle the civil suit filed against the county and numerous other defendants.

    the move means they are agreeing to pay $750,000 dollars to nurses, anne mitchell and vickilyn galle....

    ny times: texas nurses fired for alleging misconduct settle their suit

    ...the nurses, who were responsible for quality assurance and regulatory compliance, said they began having concerns about dr. arafiles soon after he was hired in 2008 by the hospital, which has difficulty recruiting physicians to remote west texas. kermit, in the heart of the permian basin oil fields, has 5,200 residents.
    feeling that their internal warnings were not heeded, the nurses, who had a combined 47 years of employment at the hospital, wrote to the state medical board anonymously and referred investigators to cases listed by number but not by patient name.

    ...dr. arafiles, who attended medical school in his native philippines before training in the united states, was charged in late june by the texas medical board with numerous violations, including “failure to maintain adequate medical records, poor medical judgment, poor decision-making, overbilling, improper coding, nontherapeutic prescribing and/or treatment and intimidation of witnesses.”

    in april, the department of state health services fined the hospital $15,850 for inadequately supervising dr. arafiles and firing ms. mitchell and ms. galle.
    Last edit by NRSKarenRN on Aug 11, '10
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  3. by   caroladybelle
    AWESOME!!!!!!!!!! that they are vindicated.

    But sad that they had to go through this and appalled that it has kept them from finding employment.
  4. by   nerdtonurse?
    They lost their jobs and can't get rehired. The doc is STILL working at the hospital.

    No good deed ever goes unpunished.
  5. by   NRSKarenRN
    The doc is there until outcome of BOM case is decided; this is second time since 2007 BOM investigated doc, suspect Medicare will be investigating next as overbilling/coding issues.
  6. by   cherryames1949
    There is seldom a happy outcome for a whistle blower. God bless them for taking the risks and consequences of doing the right thing.
  7. by   Suethestudent
    "The nurses will split at nearly $1,000,000 settlement"
    Wow... I thought $750,000 was 75% of $1,000,000 not nearly $1m. That is some rounding up, and makes it sound like these two brave nurses won the lottery. They may never work in their chosen field again, so $375,000 each is probably less than 5-7 years pay.
    What an utter disgrace.
  8. by   TessaW
    Sounds like the old boys club got defensive and took down some hard working, long suffering nurses. This sooo needs to be made into a TV Lifetime movie. Or a book...hmmm, a book deal would be just the thing. I am glad there are still administrator's out there that are patient advocates first.
  9. by   Suethestudent
    TessaW that's inspired! A book/film would be fantastic.
  10. by   msn10
    After being informed of the board’s inquiry, Dr. Arafiles persuaded the county sheriff, Robert L. Roberts Jr., a personal friend and patient, to investigate who had filed the complaint. Sheriff Roberts obtained a search warrant to seize the nurses’ computers, found the draft on Ms. Mitchell’s hard drive and brought the case to a grand jury.
    The sheriff should be let go or at least reprimanded as well. This case is CRAZY. These women had the right to report anonymously and the sheriff brought charges? Sounds like the first jury was a bunch of the physician's drinkin' buddies as well.

    I hope the ANA does something for these women as well. An honorary dinner or something.
  11. by   msn10
    Medicare will be investigating next as overbilling/coding issues.
    Not only that, Medicare has their own licensing review boards for docs called MediStar. If they charge a physician for doing something unethical or something outside of their scope of practice, they can withhold Medicare payments for a year or more. Forget wrongful death or incompetency claims; No hospital is going to have a physician on staff that doesn't get paid.
  12. by   Birry
    Dr. Arafiles persuaded the county sheriff, Robert L. Roberts Jr., a personal friend and patient, to investigate who had filed the complaint.
    The old axiom holds up again: never trust a man with two first names.

    And the sheriff and DA should both be investigated, as well.
  13. by   msn10
    "The nurses will split at nearly $1,000,000 settlement"
    Wow... I thought $750,000 was 75% of $1,000,000 not nearly $1m.
    The lawyers got the rest.
  14. by   girlvet
    you go girls! you are our heroes.
    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Jan 26, '13