Accountable Strategies blog

A blog about accountability issues in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors

The patient loses: a whistleblower’s experience

Posted by David Kassel on April 7, 2008

[Guest post by Mike Gordon]

I have been a Respiratory Therapist for 19 years. I have seen hospitals try to increase productivity to unsafe levels, even though there is a Medicare mandate to have adequate staff.

I was the only therapist on at night at one hospital. Things were not right.   I entered into the Kansas Human Rights mediation process and cannot discuss the case further.  I can tell you that if you say something is not right and leave notes, those notes can be used against you. I am living proof.  Retaliation is very real in healthcare.

Mediation was the only way for me to get to work in another state.  But the state medical boards would not give me a license until this mediation was resolved, which meant if I didn’t go along with the mediation, I couldn’t work at the only job I have done for 20 years.

You want medical retaliation. Try this: The Joint Commission will not investigate, state medical boards will not investigate, which means there is no one to complain to.  The hospital really can say anything they want and you have no defense.  When I heard the airline whistleblowers on CSPAN, I heard what happened to me.

Management must use the same playbook. The Kansas Human Rights Commission is “not favorable to employees” is what I was told.  So I got what I could and will try to move on.

Want a really nice Catch 22?   I’m terminated for bringing up wrong things, and the Medical Board, Joint Commission, and CMS all refuse to investigate.  I try to go to another state to work.  A second hospital hires me, lets me work 90 days, and fires me for not getting a full license.  The Oklahoma Board stops me from working further. (Their reasons keep changing.)  I am told they said something different to this Board.

To those who try to use mediation, don’t think the charges against the employer will be the only items used in mediation.  Don’t expect to be believed.  I had convincing proof, but it wasn’t enough.  If all state human rights commissions are operated like the one I used, then they need to be shut down. I thought I was going to get help.

Don’t expect real reforms in the way treatment loads are handled and in interaction between the sexes.  Not to mention how different disciplines interact.  When the physicians, nurses, and therapists all have their own agendas, the patient has been left out and that’s one way that bad things happen to good patients.  As long as physicians see the hospital experience as one of “write orders and call me in the morning,” the patient loses.

As long as nursing only cares for their part–“call Respiratory because they don’t want to deal with the patient” –or they enjoy calling Respiratory to lord over them (some hospitals will fire you if don’t play a nurse tech role), or they are too incompetent to know when a patient is going bad, or they misuse the physician order to call for every little thing, then the patient loses.

For a Respiratory Therapist, you are really caught in the middle. You are given the maximum amount of work to do, expected to find time for all the emergencies that occur during the shift, and try to survive for another day. The patient loses in so many ways.  You can’t fix a patient when three other nurses are calling you and the ER calls.

You can only do so much.  The hospitals use consultants to cut staff.  The hospitals are becoming a production line and the patient is the product. There is no quality control inspection process like there is for the airlines. The patient loses.

Why have a doctor order something I don’t have time to give?  Then the nurse orders therapy.  Most of time, the patient doesn’t need what is ordered and then I have to try and get the proper order.  What does that patient need? Do I have time to give that therapy?

Into this mix is a management that only wants productivity, not patient care.  It is very complex and you feel good when things go well, but this is happening less and less.


One Response to “The patient loses: a whistleblower’s experience”

  1. Kim Sanders-Fisher said

    Deliberate Negligent Understaffing must be stopped. WHEN?

    I was left stranded continuously scrubbed into Surgery without a break for 12 straight hours on the worst occasion. That was 12 hours without water, without food, without a chance to pee, sit down or even scratch my own nose. This occured during a very stressful Liver Transplant Surgery where my patient was on bypass! You could not inflict such inhumane conditions on a working P.O.W. under the Geneva Convention, but in Maryland “breaks are at the discretion of the employer.”

    When I complained about this abuse, because I worried that under such extreme conditions I might make a mistake, I was forced to take unpaid leave. What was their excuse? My admitted inability to cope with torture in the workplace meant that “I presented a danger to the patient.” When I refused to be bullied out of my job I was fired without cause. I was not permitted to even read the allegations against me that had been solicited from intimidated coworkers; I was barred any access to my own personal file, while fabricated charges were shown to several Government and regulatory agencies behind my back. I was even offered a bribe at an EEOC Meditation Hearing that was touted as “impartial,” while I was still denied access to my files. At Arbitration the Lawyer for my former Hospital asked preposterously: “did you think you were more important than the Surgeon?” I was disgusted and they were shocked at my reply:
    “No one in that room is more important than the patient unconscious on the OR table!”

    You are absolutely right, that is the one person left behind, ignored, abandoned: the patient. I could have given up my battle for justice years ago, I have no legal recourse to compensation, but I fight on for the patients and to enable my former colleagues to be allowed to function as conscious patient advocates as that is their duty. I started a Blog site called TRANSPARENCY for EQUAL ACCOUNTABILITY in MEDICINE – the TEAM MedTEAM at

    Medical Professional who try to report negligent practices are horrendously unprotected! My own case was typical of thousands where Whistleblowers are gaged by swift retaliatory tactics. So called “Risk Management” and phony Compliance Lines only mask the truth and provide an illusion of self-policing that does not exist. The Healthcare Professionals are trying to speak out on various Blogs like yours and mine. Please read the post on my Whistleblower Campaign: W.H.E.N? WHISTLEBLOWERS in HEALTHCARE EXPOSE NEGLIGENCE: Feel Free to adopt the acronym W.H.E.N?

    This appalling situation is even stripping excellent Doctors of their careers due to “Bad Faith Peer Review.” Meanwhile the US Healthcare system becomes increasingly dangerous for patients, due in part to the Deliberate Negligent Understaffing of Medical facilities by greedy Healthcare Corporations. Many Nurses have left Nursing due to the toxic work environment where they are unable to provide proper care or protect patients from harm. America does not have a “Nursing Crisis” it has a “Nursing Exodus,” because no one is able to reverse the shocking trend towards unsafe care. I am launching a Campaign to demand an end to these unsafe working conditions and strong Whistleblower protections for Healthcare workers. To review the C.U.T! Campaign Goals please visit the C.U.T! Campaign to CONTROL UNDERSTAFFING TODAY:

    Long after I was informed by Maryland Unemployment Compensation that my Hospital had not presented any evidence to demonstrate that they had fired me for cause I was still suffering from their career sabotaging defamation. I tried repeatedly to report negligent practices in sworn statements to a number of Government bodies and regulatory agencies and I was ignored. I was told that my Arbitration was not binding, but this was untrue so I have no legal recourse anymore. Despite the lack of evidence, my prestigious Baltimore Hospital prevailed at Arbitration: how? The Compliance Line refused to protect me from retaliation while the Hospital continued to doctor my file behind my back. In violation of their fancy online claims to protect Whistleblowers this Compliance line still refuses to investigate my case. My online Petition has nearly 3000 signatures calling for an investigation, please visit:

    I hope you will add you name and your comments regarding your case to my online Petition, where you can also leave the URL to your site. On my Blog I welcome comments from Healthcare Professionals like yourself who have been impacted by retaliation. The public needs to realize that we are not rare isolated cases we are the growing trend. Often it is difficult to imagine how you can fight back and make a real difference. I commend you on your Whisteblower site and the inclusion of this important guest post. I hope that both the site host and this guest writer will team up with me to help promote the new Campaign. The cause is vitally important to all Americans: Whistleblowers in Healthcare Expose Negligence. Lets make it work with the C.U.T. Campaign goals; please contact me soon,

    My Campaign efforts could really use your help,

    Many Thanks, Kim.

    Please delete the previous post I needed to correct errors.

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