Ex-nursing home employees: We were fired for reporting maggots at Whitehall
Jeff Sainlar | AnnArbor.com
The three all worked as certified nursing aides at Whitehall Healthcare Center of Ann Arbor and were involved in the state’s investigation into the discovery of maggots in a patient’s genital area last summer, the lawsuit states.
One was fired after filing a complaint that brought the state to the facility to investigate a patient’s fall, the lawsuit states. Two others were fired after they and the employee who filed the original complaint told state investigators about the discovery of the maggots, the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit also alleges the nursing home tried to prevent employees, including two of the nursing assistants and a nurse and a nurse manager, from participating in the investigation into the maggot discovery by suspending them while it was under way, then firing them.
The facility also attempted to hide a resident’s fall and resulting injury from the resident’s family and the state, the lawsuit alleges.
Administrator John DeLuca, reached by phone Friday, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
“I have no knowledge of it and no comment,” he said.
In an investigation completed in September, the state found Whitehall failed to provide appropriate hygiene and catheter care to a resident whose vaginal area became infested with maggots: failed to supervise two residents in wheelchairs, both of whom were injured as a result; failed to provide a sanitary, comfortable and orderly interior; failed to adequately monitor the fluid intake and output for a patient who became dehydrated; failed to maintain complete staff personnel files and complete required certification, license and background checks.
State officials have since said all the problems cited in the September inspection report have been corrected.
The lawsuit filed Nov. 22 by Nikenda Morton, Wanda Mosley and Latasha Bryant seeks relief under the state's Whistleblower Protection Act, asks for a jury trial and seeks unspecified compensatory damages for economic injury, including loss of employment, mental and emotional distress, humiliation, all attorney fees and court costs.
It names Whitehall and Coastal Administrative Services LLC doing business as LaVie Administrative Services and Shoreline Management Services doing business as La Vie Management Services as defendants.
The lawsuit alleges Nikenda Morton, who began working as a certified nursing assistant at the nursing home in March, was assigned last summer to watch a resident who was at risk of falling. Morton complained about the assignment because she had injured her wrist and was not supposed to lift more than 10 pounds. She complained that she would not be able to help the resident if she did fall.
The resident did fall on Aug. 10, 2011, and injured her foot, the lawsuit states. Morton reported the incident to her supervisors, but they told her not to write a report about it, according to the lawsuit. Morton then filed a complaint with the state about the incident, said Robert Fetter, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit.
The state came to investigate the complaint, and on Sept. 1, the investigator asked the director of nursing in Morton’s presence why there was no report on the incident.
The director of nursing replied she could not find one. Morton told the investigator she could not find one because the director of nursing told her not to write one.
Morton was fired the next day, the lawsuit alleges. The nursing home stated she was fired for leaving the dining room when she was told not to do so. The lawsuit alleges she had not been told to stay in the dining room and was fired for filing the complaint and participating in the investigation.
While the state was investigating the original complaint, Bryant and Mosley became aware of the discovery of maggots in a resident’s vaginal area. They discussed the issue with Morton and the three decided to bring it to the investigator’s attention, the lawsuit states.
Bryant and Mosley were the ones who cleaned the resident after the maggots were discovered, according to the lawsuit. Fetter said it was their job to shower residents.
Whitehall tried to hide Bryant from the investigators, the suit alleges. Bryant was suspended Aug. 27 for not providing her fingerprints to the facility and was not allowed on the premises during the investigation but participated at home, the suit says. She provided her fingerprints on Aug. 29, but was fired on Sept. 6, the lawsuit says.
Mosley was fired, the lawsuit alleges, after the nursing home received a copy of the state’s report on the investigation, which detailed the maggot discovery and other allegations of poor care and insanitary conditions and included a statement from Mosley.
The lawsuit also alleges that DeLuca was accused before of firing an employee for whistleblowing at a nursing home.
A lawsuit filed Sept. 28, 2008, by Sherzelle Woods accused Heartland Healthcare Center of Ann Arbor of firing her for complaining about racial discrimination and abuse and neglect of patients. DeLuca was administrator of the nursing home at the time. Fetter, who represented Woods in the lawsuit, said the case was settled out of court.
Fetter said it’s important for nursing home employees to be able to report problems. “We rely on these employees to make these reports ,” he sad. “The patients often can’t speak for themselves.”