It is the public policy of California to encourage patients, nurses, doctors and other members of health facilities to speak up against suspected unsafe patient care and poor health facility conditions. It is still very common for members of health facilities to witness first hand poor patient treatment and poor patient conditions. Therefore, California has passed a unique whistleblower law, Health & Safety Code 1278.5, for medical professionals. Basically, under 1278.5, it is unlawful for an employer of a health facility to retaliate against any patient or employee of the health facility for complaining or reporting unsafe patient care or poor patient conditions to the employer. Employee rights attorneys are there to ensure that health facility employers are held accountable under this law.
Recent Verdict – Cancer Patients and Bad Surgeons Lead to Whistleblower Complaint
In a very recent case out of the California judicial system, Wascher v. Southern California Permanente Group, plaintiff was a surgeon who worked for defendant from 2009 to 2011. During his employment, plaintiff complained about unsafe patient care to the defendant. Plaintiff made the following complaints to his employer: access to surgery for cancer patients took too long and unqualified surgeons were handling cancer cases that they should not be handling. In response to his complaints, rather than addressing the plaintiff’s legitimate complaints, the defendant barred him from becoming a partner. Plaintiff hired an employee rights attorney to protect his rights.
Plaintiff argued that he was retaliated against for complaining about unsafe patient care in the workplace. Defendant argued that the plaintiff was not barred from becoming a partner because he was not a good fit. Defendant also argued that he did not make complaints, but asked for certain preferences that would benefit himself as a surgeon. The jury was not convinced by the defense and sided with the plaintiff. The jury awarded plaintiff $1,750,000 for retaliation under Health & Safety 1278.5.
This case was a huge victory for employees of health facilities, whether it be doctors, nurses, o medical staff assistance. Wascher v. Southern California Permanente Group reinforces California’s policy of encouraging members of health facilities to speak up against suspected unsafe patient care and poor health facility conditions. This is a very important law as it not only protects employees who act as patient advocates, but also protects the pateints themselves to ensure that Californians are treated in a safe and clean health facility. If you are an employee of a health facility and you feel that you have been retaliated against for reporting unsafe patient conditions or acting as an advocate for patients adverse to your employer, then call an employee rights attorney immediately.