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Nurse Writes Anonymous Letter Reporting a Doctor to the State and Is Going to Trial - Texas

Posted Feb 07 2010 7:13am

This is the strangest story here and in reading itthe procedures for investigating were wrong.  I look at the Sheriff who got a search order and went to confiscate the computers of the nurses from their home.  Certainly it sounds like there’s unanswered questions on both sides of this storyboth the doctor’s side with complaintsthe nurses side with their spotless reputation certainly creates doubts.  image

I think the Sheriff’s action stopped this from being handled with normal investigative procedures that are normally followed.  The sheriffgranted had been a patient of the doctor and thus felt gratification to the doctorbut he’s one patient of manyso again looking at everything and the whole case should have been done.

It’s a shame this case seems to have escalated to this level of not only disruptionbut the fact that how do you go back and try to do a proper investigation to be fair and get the facts all the way around.  Some type of counseling is needed for the Sheriff and due to the fact that he muffed the entire processthe nurse should not have to go to trialas the article states there are areas of question for the doctor on prior incidents that need to be investigated and compared to the issues the nurses were reporting.  This sounds like “redneck” justice in my opinion which is not the way we as civilized citizens should handle such disputes.   Read the full accounting at the link at the end of the post for all the details.   BD 

KERMITTex. — It occurred to Anne Mitchell as she was writing the letter that she might lose her jobwhich is why she chose not to sign it. But it was beyond her conception that she would be indicted and threatened with 10 years in prison for doing what she knew a nurse must: inform state regulators that a doctor at her rural hospital was practicing bad medicine.

But in what may be an unprecedented prosecutionMrs. Mitchell is scheduled to stand trial in state court on Monday for “misuse of official information,” a third-degree felony in Texas.

The prosecutor said he would show that Mrs. Mitchell had a history of making “inflammatory” statements about Dr. Rolando G. Arafiles Jr. and intended to damage his reputation when she reported him last April to the Texas Medical Boardwhich licenses and disciplines doctors.

Mrs. Mitchell counters that as an administrative nurseshe had a professional obligation to protect patients from what she saw as a pattern of improper prescribing and surgical procedures — including a failed skin graft that Dr. Arafiles performed in the emergency roomwithout surgical privileges. He also sutured a rubber tip to a patient’s crushed finger for protectionan unconventional remedy that was later flagged as inappropriate by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

When the medical board notified Dr. Arafiles of the anonymous complainthe protested to his friendthe Winkler County sheriffthat he was being harassed. The sheriffan admiring patient who credits the doctor with saving him after a heart attackobtained a search warrant to seize the two nurses’ work computers and found the letter.

Until they were fired without explanation on June 1Mrs. Mitchell and Mrs. Galle had worked a combined 47 years at Winkler County Memorial Hospital heremost recently as its compliance and quality improvement officers.

The nurseswho are highly regarded even by the administrator who dismissed themsaid the case had stained their reputations and drained their savings. With felony charges pendingneither has been able to find work. They said they could feel heads turn when they walked into local lunch spots like El Joey’s Mexican restaurant.

“It has derailed our careersand we’re probably not going to be able to get them back on track again,” said Mrs. Galle54a grandmother who is depicted around town as the soft-spoken Thelma to Mrs. Mitchell’s straight-shooting Louise. “We’re just in disbelief that you could be arrested for doing something you had been told your whole career was an obligation.”

The hospital administratorStan Wileysaid in an interview that Dr. Arafiles had been reprimanded on several occasions for improprieties in writing prescriptions and performing surgery and had agreed to make changes. Mr. Wileywho said it was difficult to recruit physicians to remote West Texassaid he knew when he hired Dr. Arafiles that he had a restriction on his license stemming from his supervision of a weight-loss clinic.

In a surprise inspection last Septemberstate investigators found several violations by Dr. Arafiles and concluded that the hospital had discriminated against the nurses by firing them for “reporting in good faith.”

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