Nurse Supervisor Fired for Whistleblowing About COVID-19 Safety Lapses, Complaint Charges
May 22, 2020
A Chicago nursing home fired a nurse supervisor for whistleblowing about COVID-19 safety issues, according to a complaint filed in Cook County Circuit Court today. The complaint alleges claims for wrongful termination. Jeff and his law firm filed the lawsuit.
The facts were used as an example to teach healthcare employers how to better manage COVID-19 risks.
The case involves Norwood Crossing, a nursing home located in the Norwood Park neighborhood.
The complaint alleges Norwood Crossing terminated Andrea Hinich, a military veteran, in retaliation for whistleblowing and refusing to violate safety rules. Hinich was terminated one day after raising objections at a safety meeting.
According to the complaint, in June 2019, Hinich was hired and was assigned to supervise the 4th floor where residents required 24-hour care.
The problems at Norwood Crossing began as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in Chicago.
The complaint alleges the nursing staff received no specific COVID-19 education or training, leaving them ill-equipped to manage threats posed by the virus. Hinich alleges she developed training materials, but she was denied permission to use them.
The complaint lays out a timeline of troubling events that paint a picture of nursing home administrators struggling to accept the hard facts involved in trying to manage COVID-19 threats in a long-term healthcare facility.
The complaint alleges administrators tried to make the circumstances at the facility look better by making inaccurate disclosures about COVID-19 positive cases and directing staff, including Hinich, to put misleading information in residents’ progress notes.
According to the complaint, Hinich was specifically hired for her experience in complex patient care, but as the pandemic began, she was sidelined and repeatedly disregarded, ignored and told to “not to worry” about the issues she raised.
Hinich claims she was terminated one day after a dustup occurred at a safety meeting attended by senior management. Hinich claims she was initially excluded from the meeting, but ultimately she was able to attend a portion of the meeting.
According to the complaint, at the meeting, Hinich objected and refused directives to participate in a plan to give the staff personal protective equipment (PPE) without the required fit testing or training. The complaint alleges Hinich was told they “don’t have to do the fit testing” and that the PPE was being given to the staff only to “make them feel better.”
According to the complaint, Hinich was terminated without warning and given false reasons for her termination that made her the scapegoat for the safety issues she had been raising.
The case was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois and captioned as Andrea Hinich v. Norwood Crossing Association, et al., No. 20 L 5539.
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