Sunday, February 7, 2010

West Texas whistleblower goes on trial

The New York Times reports today on the impending trial of Anne Mitchell, a nurse administrator in Kermit, Texas, who is charged with "misuse of official information," a third degree felony in Texas. The story by Kevin Sack characterizes the prosecution as "unprecedented" because the information Mitchell allegedly misused regarded Dr. Rolando Arafiles, Jr., a doctor at the Winkler County Memorial Hospital. Ms. Mitchell reported Dr. Arafiles to Texas health regulators for various irregularities, including performing surgery in the hospital's emergency room without surgical privileges. She believes she had a duty to make the report to protect patients. Last week, the prosecutor dropped charges against a second administrative nurse who, like Ms. Mitchell, was fired from the hospital last June. The two nurses had been the hospital's compliance and quality improvement officers.

The story notes the difficulty rural communities like Kermit, population 5,714, face in attracting physicians to practice there. Dr. Arafiles came to the Winkler County hospital with a restriction already on his medical license because of past irregularities.

Here's a quote from the NY Times story that suggests the influence of lack of anonymity in small towns like Kermit, which is in West Texas' Permian basin, just a few miles from New Mexico.
The seeming conflicts of interest are as abundant as the cattle grazing among the pump jacks and mesquite.

When the medical board notified Dr. Arafiles of the anonymous complaint, he protested to his friend, the Winkler County sheriff, that he was being harassed. The sheriff, an admiring patient who credits the doctor with saving him after a heart attack, obtained a search warrant to seize the two nurses’ work computers and found the letter.

Both sides acknowledge that the case has polarized the community, and the judge has moved the trial to a neighboring county.

The nurses have sued in federal court charging the county, hospital, sheriff, doctor, and hospital with vindictive prosecution. They also allege infringement of their First Amendment rights.

Interestingly, this story is currently No. 10 on the's most emailed list.

P.S. As of 4:45 PST on the day it first appeared, the story went as high as No. 2 on the most emailed list. This level of interest must be a consequence of all the doctors and nurses sharing a story under the very general (but provocative) headline, "Nurse to Stand Trial for Reporting Doctor."


Auto Accident Attorney Houston, Texas said...

I just gone through the story from the link you given. It is really interesting.

vanzare apartamente cluj said...

Something like this must not happen again !!!

news games said...

I think this is an extremely dangerous "habit" :(