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Woman Fired From Nursing Home for Assisting State Investigation Wins Damages – Williamson v. Ciena Healthcare Management

As a Pennsylvania nursing home lawyer, I was interested to see a story out of Detroit about a nursing home employee who was actually fired for putting patient safety first. That was the allegation made by Elizabeth Williamson, who sued Ciena Healthcare Management for wrongful firing. Williamson alleged that she was fired after cooperating with an investigation by the Michigan Department of Community Health, which was looking into several patient safety incidents. After a six-day trial in Williamson v. Ciena Healthcare Management, a jury in Wayne County, Mich. awarded Williamson $705,000 for lost pay and emotional suffering.

Williamson was a respiratory therapy manager at a Detroit nursing home called Omni Continuing Care. She and her colleagues were interviewed by the state Department of Community Health after several patient safety incidents. In one such incident, a patient who was not eating was given insulin, causing very low blood sugar levels. A nurse was supposed to check on the patient, but did not and falsified records showing she had, with the cooperation of supervisors. The patient was found dead by an outside lab technician, who also discovered the nurse sleeping. Another incident involved a patient who was left unsupervised long enough to pull out a tracheostomy; the patient died. In a third incident, a resident was given a wrong dosage of narcotics and developed respiratory distress, which wasn’t properly assessed. And the state issued a fourth citation after an employee tied a resident to the bed with sheets and clothing.

As part of its investigation, the Department of Community Health interviewed Williamson and other managers at Omni. The state investigator testified that where others were evasive or tried to hurt the investigation, Williamson was honest and accurate. After the investigation was completed, she was fired. Omni was eventually cited for failure to train, monitor or hold staff members accountable, understaffing and directing employees to falsify records.

Unfortunately, news coverage and a law firm’s press release don’t tell us whether the facility was sued, fined or otherwise faced consequences for its actions. But as a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer, I feel confident that a facility with the record of violations outlined here could face both regulatory penalties and lawsuits by families of the victims. Families who put vulnerable loved ones in a nursing home expect the home to provide the kind of care they can’t, including monitoring when necessary as well as medical expertise. When nursing homes not only don’t provide this, but take steps to cover it up, they are violating families’ trust as well as the law. As a Philadelphia injury lawyer, I help families with this kind of history of Pennsylvania nursing home abuse and neglect hold the facilities legally and financially responsible, recovering money they can use to find more appropriate care and making sure the facility’s poor record is well publicized as a warning to others.

Rosenbaum & Associates represents clients throughout greater Philadelphia and all of Pennsylvania who are ready to fight back against abusive and neglectful nursing homes. For a free, confidential case evaluation, send us an email or call 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 toll-free today.

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