One day George, a hospital employee with several years experienced, noticed that his coworker Tom was not following his training protocol.  George felt that Tom’s actions could put patient safety in jeopardy, if they weren’t corrected, so George reported Tom’s actions to his manager, Pete.  It just so happened that Pete really liked Tom, so instead of investigating and talking to Tom, Pete brushed it off, and let it slide.  George was upset.  He was concerned that if someone didn’t do something then Tom’s behavior would continue, and a patient may end up getting injured.  So George went to his director, Kate.  George told Kate that Tom was not following his training and that he was concerned it would lead to a patient injury.  Kate said she would look into it and asked if Pete knew.  George said “Yes, I already told Pete, but he didn’t do anything.”  When Pete learned about this, he was furious and he reassigned George to night shift, and docked his pay.  Does George have a cause of action?

Probably so. As long as George’s concerns were “reasonable,” and as long as he takes action before his statute of limitations expires, he likely has a claim for retaliation for reporting a patient safety report.

Kentucky has very powerful healthcare “whistleblower” protection.  The law does not require health care workers to wait until a patient is injured to report it.  Instead, the law requires all healthcare workers who have a reasonable concern for patient safety to report it immediately.

The law in Kentucky promises all health care workers that if they report, or attempt to report, dangerous or potentially dangerous conditions in a Kentucky health care facility, they will have a claim for damages if anyone retaliates against them for speaking up. 

KRS 216B.165, *requires* all health care workers to speak up if they see something dangerous in their facility or clinic, even if it’s uncomfortable.  In fact, if a healthcare worker has a “reasonable concern” that patient safety is jeopardized, or that the quality of care is lacking, the healthcare worker does not have a choice. He or she must report it.

The law then places a burden on the supervisor to a.) listen to the report, b.) investigate it immediately, and c.) institute corrective actions as needed.  This, again, is mandatory. Managers and supervisors have to listen to reports of patient safety concerns.  They have to investigate. And they have to enact corrective measures when necessary.

A health care worker who does not report a patient safety complaint is breaking the law.  They are not only breaking the law, he or she is facilitating the danger that the patient may be in.  That’s why the Kentucky General Assembly requires health care workers to make written or oral reports of patient safety concerns.  A manager who hears a concern and ignores it, or hides it, is also breaking the law. He or she is also facilitating the danger that the patient may be experiencing.

Another powerful piece of the law is: health care workers who do report cannot be retaliated against.  Any health care worker who has been retaliated against (fired, demoted, silenced, bullied, intimidated etc.) for making a patient safety report may be afforded legal protection.  In the example above, George was retaliated against for going around Pete to report Tom.  Thus, he has a claim against the employer for his damages, which seem to be loss of income due to his pay cut, and potentially emotional distress.  In certain cases, where retaliation is especially egregious, punitive damages may also be available to a Plaintiff who has been retaliated against.

Our firm is involved in these cases, and have had success representing clients who have been retaliated against for making a patient safety report.  If you or a loved one has experienced something similar, feel free to give us a call.

This is an advertisement.  While it was based on the law at the time it was written, it should not be considered legal advice.