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Radiology Whistle-Blowing Blamed For Firing

December 10, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Interventional Radiology, Medical Ethics
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The former director of interventional radiology at two hospitals in Louisville, Kentucky, has filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit. She says she was fired because she objected to the hospitals’ practice of allowing technicians and nurses to operate radiation equipment even though they didn’t hold a license to do so.

Deborah Huber filed the suit last week, seeking compensation for lost wages and other, unspecified damages. A spokesman for the company that runs the hospitals responded that it was “completely without credibility.”

The lawsuit says that Huber accepted the job with Norton Audubon and Norton Suburban hospitals in April 2009 at an annual salary of $110,000. She was fired, it says, on July 7, 2010.

The lawsuit alleges that Huber repeatedly told Norton officials that it was improper and compromised patient care when unlicensed employees operated radiation equipment. About June 1 of this year, the suit says, Huber contacted the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to clarify whether unlicensed staff were permitted to operate such equipment during radiology procedures. She was told, the suit says, that they were not.

When Norton Healthcare learned that she had contacted the cabinet, the suit says, a Norton executive criticized Huber for not fitting in. The suit quoted the executive as saying, “This is very difficult, but it just isn’t a good fit.”

Huber’s lawyer, Christopher Haden, said in a statement:

This is a classic whistle-blower case.

He continued: “As a health-care provider, Ms. Huber had an obligation under Kentucky law to report what she believed to be health-care violations that resulted in compromised patient care. When Norton found out that Ms. Huber had contacted the state, her boss literally accused her of ‘blowing the whistle’ and fired her.”

Huber, in an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, said she had been given a 3.3 percent raise in June, shortly before the firing. She said she has not found another job and is is struggling to get by on unemployment benefits.

Norton Healthcare spokesman Steve Menaugh issued a statement saying, “Norton Healthcare, both before Deborah Huber’s short period of employment with our organization and since her departure, has maintained a fully accredited, high-quality radiology program at its hospitals. In this instance, the Commonwealth of Kentucky did not substantiate or validate a single instance of Ms. Huber’s allegations.”

The statement concluded:

This lawsuit is completely without credibility, so we will proceed through the judicial process.

Related seminar: Interventional Radiology Review

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