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Proposed Legislation to Protect Nurse Whistleblowers

by Suzanne Daniluk, RN on February 9th, 2011

The Texas Nurses Association announced support for legislation to protect whistleblowers in Texas. In the aftermath of the Winkler County nurses’ case, the Texas Nurses Association and other nursing organizations will initiate a “patient advocacy protections” bill in the 2011 Texas Legislative Session. According to the Texas Nursing Voice, the proposed provisions will enhance whistleblower protection, which includes:

Immunity from criminal prosecution. Currently, no such protection exists in Texas for those who report in order to protect patients.

Increases fines for retaliation. The maximum fine that the Department of State Health Services could impose for the improper employment termination of the Winkler County nurses was $650 per nurse.

Eliminates “motive” by clarifying the standard for reporting as “good faith”. The Winkler nurses were accused of acting with bad motive against the physician they reported to the Texas Medical Board. Instead, the new definition eliminates issues of motive, and is based upon “honest and reasonable belief” that patient well-being may be compromised.

Incidentally, the Texas Nursing Voice also reported as an update to the Texas nurses’ case (and perhaps as an example of karma), that the physician in question, Dr. Rolando Arafiles, has himself been criminally charged – by the Texas Attorney General for misuse of official information and retaliation. The charge of retaliation is based upon alleged actions that the doctor took by disclosure of medical information once he learned of the nurses’ report. Similarly, as had the nurses, Dr. Arafiles faces a possible sentence of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted.

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