Three nurses sue over losing jobs at Beverly nursing home

Andrew Clevenger, Charlston Gazette, June 30, 2006
Three former nurses at a Glasgow nursing home have filed a wrongful termination suit in Kanawha Circuit Court against their former employer. In the suit against Beverly Health and Rehabilitation Services Inc., Hubert Atkins II, Michelle Gill and Pamela Givens allege that they were either fired or forced to resign after they reported cases of abuse or neglect to their superiors. Jean Lavender, who is listed as director of nursing services at the facility, is also named in the suit.

Atkins, a licensed practical nurse, alleges that shortly after he began working at Beverly in June 2005, he complained to his nursing supervisor that another nurse had falsely charted a patient’s treatment. The next day he was called into Lavender’s office, where she warned him against becoming a “trouble maker” and a “tattle tale,” the suit contends. On another occasion, Gill, also a licensed practical nurse, complained to the company’s corporate office that co-workers failed to report circulatory problems in a resident’s leg, which was later amputated, according to the suit. Lavender allegedly told Gill that her complaint was unsubstantiated because “the resident would have lost his leg anyway.”

On March 9, 2006, Atkins and Gill observed a resident with a wound dressing that had not been changed in nearly two weeks, despite doctor’s orders that it must be changed daily, the suit maintains. “The resident’s dressing was black and appeared to be covered with mold and/or fungi. The dressing was labeled ‘2-24-06,’ the date of its application,” and the chart improperly indicated that the dressing had been changed daily, the lawsuit states. Atkins and Gill reported the problem to Givens, who then told Lavender, according to the suit. Lavender allegedly said the situation was a simple oversight.

The suit maintains that Atkins and Gill were fired in “unlawful retaliation” for their whistleblowing activities. Givens later resigned because of the hostile work environment, the suit contends. “They made numerous quality-of-care complaints to administration,” said Charleston lawyer Ben Salango, who filed the suit on behalf of the nurses. A call to the nursing home was referred to the company’s corporate lawyer in Fort Smith, Ark.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Web site, the nursing home had 11 health deficiencies during inspections in March and August 2005, three higher than the national average. Most of the deficiencies affected few residents and were described as causing minimal harm or potential for actual harm. The suit describes the defendants’ actions as “so outrageous in character and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well back pay and front pay.

To contact staff writer Andrew Clevenger, use e-mail or call 348-1723.