There was an interesting wrongful termination suit that occurred recently in Oregon. Linda Boly RN complained to management that cost-cutting measures were jeopardizing patient care. She warned them that “rushing patients through” the process endangers them. The Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center administrators listened and did what was in their best interest. They hired more nurses, cut back on administrators and their bonuses and lessened each nurse’s patient load. I’m kidding. They fired Linda Boly. Linda won the lawsuit and now gets $3 million and hopes this sends a “big message”. Oh, it will. Let’s look at the case and we can figure what that message will be.
- Legacy contended that it fired Boly in June 2013 for poor job performance.
- Boly, 59, had a stellar track record during her 34-year career at the Northwest Portland hospital.
- Legacy managers all the way up to the top were getting bonuses for staying within budget.
- Meanwhile, Legacy Health System was working on overdrive to rein in its biggest expense: its staff
- In 2011, Legacy announced plans to reduce its workforce by 400 employees.
- Around that time, hospital managers also were trying to reduce payroll on the nursing staff, and Boly was a prime target because she was the highest paid nurse in her unit with $88,000 in annual wages
- In addition, the hospital started instituting quotas, which dictated the amount of time that nurses had to complete various procedures
- From December 2012 to June 2013, Boly was written up three times for failing to meet productivity quotas and for “working off of the clock” by completing chart work at the end of the day
- Legacy cited what it characterized as examples of poor nursing. In one, a former colleague described how she thought Boly ignored a patient, whose blood oxygen level was low, while Boly worked at a computer for about five minutes.
- Boly was deemed “a troublemaker” by management starting in 2005, when she started working to pass Oregon’s Nurse Staffing Law, which was designed to give nurses more influence over decisions that might affect patient care.
Trust me, it won’t just be Legacy looking at this case. Every hospital administrator around the country is looking at this case. What will the message be? Well, it should make them think “we should take this Oregon example and make sure we have enough money for good, experienced nurses who have a low enough patient load so they can do their jobs.” Does anyone think that will be the outcome? Or, is it more likely that they will think “we need to continue to reduce staff (especially the higher paid nurses) but get better at filling out paper trails on nurses so their cases are wrapped up tight when we eventualy fire them”? I believe it’s the latter and sad thing is that route will require more administrators watching over the nurses to complete these paper trails. The good news is this will not be a problem for hospitals because they somehow always have plenty of money for that.