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Hospital Administrator Pleads Guilty in Firing of Winkler County Nurses

by Leah Greene, JD, LLM on March 22nd, 2011

Yesterday, Stan Wiley, a former hospital administrator at Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit, Texas, pled guilty to abuse of official capacity in his firing of two nurses who filed an anonymous complaint against a physician with the Texas Medical Board (“TMB”). Mr. Wiley’s plea deal requires him to serve 30 days in the Winkler County Jail and cooperate in the prosecution of the other three defendants indicted along with him for the retaliatory firings: Dr. Rolando Arafiles, Winkler County Attorney Scott Tidwell and Winkler County Sheriff Robert Roberts.

Briefly, this case stems from a whistle-blower action. Nurses Anne Mitchell and Vickilyn Galle were responsible for quality assurance and regulatory compliance at Winkler County Hospital. They were concerned about the quality of care provided by Dr. Rolando Arafiles, Jr. and anonymously filed a complaint with the TMB after their internal warnings to the hospital were not heeded. They referred the TMB investigators to patient files by number, not by patient name.

When Dr. Arafiles learned of the investigation, he persuaded County Attorney Scott Tidwell and County Sheriff Robert Roberts to launch an investigation to determine who had reported him to the TMB. Ultimately, the report to the TMB was found on the hard drive of Ms. Mitchell’s home computer after the sheriff acted on a search warrant. The nurses were charged with a third degree felony for misuse of official information. The charges against Ms. Galle were dropped before trial. Ms. Mitchell was acquitted by a jury in February 2011. Both settled a suit against Winkler County for a total of $750,000.00.

Dr. Arafiles has been fined $5,000.00, publicly reprimanded by the TMB and ordered to undergo training and supervision. More information regarding his disciplinary order is found here. More information regarding Mr. Wiley’s plea deal is found here.

This incident drew national attention to the 15-bed hospital due to the potential chilling effect on whistle-blower actions.

Suzanne Daniluk, RN, a legal nurse consultant at Kroger | Burrus, contributed the information regarding the charges and disciplinary actions for retaliation against the nurses.

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From → Health Law