She thought she was doing the right thing.
Instead, she was demoted — and nearly fired — as a clinical care coordinator at NCH North Naples Hospital and reassigned to regular nursing duties, which cut her income nearly in half, not to mention the humiliation of the demotion, according to a civil lawsuit filed last week in Collier County Circuit Court.
Laura Thomson, no age available, has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the NCH Healthcare System, saying the hospital violated Florida whistleblower law by punishing her for bringing wrongdoings to her supervisor’s attention.
She said the hospital retaliated against her after she raised patient safety concerns and reported a co-worker had stolen drugs from the hospital or patients. That same colleague also was distributing pornographic e-mails at work, the lawsuit says.
“Obviously, we feel no NCH employee should be punished for reporting illegal activity, especially when patient safety and patient care is concerned,” Thomson’s lawyer, Bradley Rothman, said.
NCH officials say they have not been served with the lawsuit, filed last week, and declined to comment specifically on the claim.
“NCH is committed to operating its facilities in a legally compliant manner and has policies and procedures in place to address complaints as they are brought to our attention,” Debbie Curry, NCH spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Thomson, who still works at North Naples, worked evenings as a clinical care coordinator from March 26, 2007 until early February this year. The lawsuit does not state which hospital unit or floor where she worked.
As an evening clinical care coordinator, she discovered a daytime clinical care coordinator was stealing or misusing narcotics from the hospital or perhaps from patients, the lawsuit states. She discovered that on one occasion, the daytime coordinator had taken Dilaudid and Percocet on a second occasion. Both drugs are powerful painkillers
In addition, Thomson found the same daytime clinical care coordinator was distributing pornographic e-mail at work, the lawsuit said. The daytime clinical care coordinator in question is male, Rothman, the plaintiff’s attorney, said.
One day in late January, Thomson arrived at work and “discovered certain problems with the management of her floor of the Hospital causing patient safety and quality of care concerns including without limitation inappropriate scheduling, coordination, and utilization of the nurses,” the lawsuit says.
After realizing these issues, Thomson called her supervisor to raise her objections and said the patient safety issues were unacceptable to her, the lawsuit said. Thomson’s supervisor is not identified in the lawsuit.
She met with her supervisor, who reprimanded her “one point” for misconduct. At that time, Thomson told her supervisor about the daytime clinical care coordinator’s misuse of narcotics.
Thomson also contacted NCH’s assistant director of human resources about the pornographic e-mail from the daytime clinical care coordinator.
As a result, Thomson’s supervisor retaliated with “five points” on her disciplinary record for “unsatisfactory performance.” Initially, Thomson was told she was fired before she was put on administrative leave.
At some point not identified in the lawsuit, Thomson was demoted to the position of registered nurse, which carries less prestige and resulted in her income dropping by about one half, according to the lawsuit.
The complaint says NCH’s conduct was done in accordance with official and unofficial company policy of NCH management and Thomson’s refusal and objections to the conduct resulted in the retaliation.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction against NCH to stop violating the state’s whistleblower act and to reinstate Thomson to her earlier job, along with reinstating her backpay, fringe benefits and award of compensatory damages.