February 9th, 2011 by GruntDoc in Better Health Network, News
AUSTIN — “Texas medical regulators on Friday placed on probation a West Texas doctor involved in the unsuccessful prosecution of two nurses who complained anonymously that the physician was unethical and risking patients’ health. The Texas Medical Board technically suspended Dr. Rolando G. Arafiles Jr. but allowed him to continue to practice medicine while on probation for four years if he completes additional training. The board also said Arafiles must be monitored by another physician and submit patient medical and billing records for review. The monitor will report his or her findings to the board. In the mediated order signed in Austin, the board concluded that Arafiles failed to treat emergency room patients properly, did not apply hormone therapy to a female patient appropriately and failed to document patient diagnoses and treatment plans. The board also found that Arafiles improperly tried to intimidate two nurses who reported him to the medical board for unethical behavior.”
This particular whistleblowing issue happened in a town where we lived for several years, Kermit, Texas. The nurses had turned the doctor in to the hospital and an outside review for things they believed were harmful to patients, being done by this physician. When the issue was virtually ignored, they reported anonymously to the Texas Medical Board, giving the file numbers (not patient names). It took years to resolve the problem, but as you see in the above article, the physician in question was reprimanded. The nurses, with the support of the American Nurses Association, and hundreds of nurses, were absolved of any abuse of divulging medical records, and received settlements, as well as reestablishing their good names.
This is an example of accusations of violating Health Insurance Portablilty and Accountability Act of 1996, which protects the privacy of individuals’ health information. An employee who thinks that he or she has been retaliated against for disclosing HIPAA-protected information in the course of reporting or complaining about a workplace safety or health issue, may file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the retaliation. OSHA is charged with regulating health and safety in the workplace, and is considered a public health authority and a health oversight agency under HIPAA.
Persons in all types of work have the right to complain, if they feel their work conditions may be harmful and the company isn’t taking action to correct it. One example is employees who work for publicly traded companies or companies that are required to file certain reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are protected from retaliation for reporting alleged mail, wire, bank, or securities fraud; violation(s) of SEC rules and regulations; or violation(s) of Federal law relating to fraud against shareholders. This became effective under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.
If you believe that your employer retaliated against you because you exercised your legal rights as an employee, contact your local OSHA office as soon as possible, because there are legal time limits. You have a limited right under the OSH Act to refuse to do a job because conditions are hazardous. You may do so under the OSH Act only when (1) you believe that you face death or serious injury (and the situation is so clearly hazardous that any reasonable person would believe the same thing); (2) you have tried to get your employer to correct the condition, and there is no other way to do the job safely; and (3) the situation is so urgent that you do not have time to eliminate the hazard through regulatory channels such as calling OSHA. Regardless of the unsafe condition, you are not protected if you simply walk off the job. Go to www.osha.gov for more information if you are in any type of situation that you fear for your safety.
Unfavorable personnel actions may include:
- Firing or laying off
- Denying overtime or promotion
- Failing to hire or rehire
- Denying benefits
- Reassignment affecting promotion prospects
- Reducing pay or hours
We hope that this will help anyone who questions their safety on the job; we also hope that work conditions are favorable to all employees, and that they are guaranteed their safety under the law.