Atlanta Legal Nurse Consultant Reports On Winkler County, Texas Nurses Lawsuits

Atlanta legal nurse consultant Liz Buddenhagen, registered nurse and certified legal nurse consultant, relates that two southwestern Texas nurses were sued after reporting concerns they had about the standard of care provided by a physician practicing in Winkler County to the Texas Medical Board. The nurses registered the same concerns with the Winkler County Memorial Hospital administration first and did not feel that the hospital adequately addressed the concerns.

Buddenhagen notes that among the sources reporting on the ongoing events, she took the information presented here from the Texas Nurses Association website. The website has the Winker County updates front and center on their home page.

Here’s What Happened:

Vicki Galle and Anne Mitchell, twenty-year nurses at the 15 bed rural Winkler County Memorial Hospital were terminated by the hospital in June, 2009. Vicki and Anne reported anonymously to the Texas Medical Board concerns that a particular physician’s practice was inconsistent with quality of care and patient safety, particularly about his use of non-therapeutic treatments and prescriptions.

The physician filed a complaint with the sheriff who obtained a copy of the report, identified the nurses, searched their work computers and linked a copy of the report to them. The nurses were then indicted for misuse of governmental information although no patient names (only medical record numbers) were used in their report.

As of Friday, August 28, 2009, attorneys for Vicki Galle and Anne Mitchell filed suit in federal court alleging not only illegal retaliation for patient advocacy activities, but also civil rights and due process violations.

The TNA website states: “Fortunately, Texas has a number of laws that protect nurses who advocate for their patients. The nurses’ complaint states their termination and criminal indictment was illegal retaliation in violation of the Nursing Practice Act, Board of Nursing Rules, and several other Texas laws:
-- Health and Safety code provisions prohibiting retaliation for reporting patient care concerns
-- Medical Practice Act provision that prohibit retaliation for reporting to the medical board
-- The Public Employee Whistleblower Law

All Nursing Eyes Are On Texas:

The American Nurses Association and the Texas Nurses Association have submitted a news release, July 16, 2009, jointly speaking out to criticize against the wrongful prosecution of the Winkler County nurses.

The American Nurses Association (ANA), who represents the interests of the nation’s 2.9 million registered nurses, says this undermines one of the basic tenets of the nurse’s Code of Ethics – nurses have a duty to advocate for the health and safety of their patients.

The “American Nurses Association (ANA) wants Winkler County to know the world is watching,” said ANA President Rebecca M Patton, MSN, RN, CNOR.

The Texas Nurses Association (TNA) has announced that it has established the TNA Legal Defense Fund for the Winkler County nurses. Details are available on their website.

Buddenhagen also related that the legal nurse community nationwide is watching the Texas nurses’ legal proceedings closely and with great interest. Failure to report up the chain of command regarding patient safety is an issue that legal nurse consultants aid in investigating frequently in their line of work.

About Liz Buddenhagen:

Liz Buddenhagen, registered nurse and Atlanta legal nurse consultant, is the owner of Buddenhagen & Associates, assisting attorneys with the healthcare issues of their legal cases. For more information view website at, email at or call 770-725-2997.

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