ACLU of Nebraska Sues Hospital for Firing Nurse Who Raised Patient Care Concerns

Affiliate: ACLU of Nebraska
October 15, 2001 12:00 am

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ACLU of Nebraska
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LINCOLN, NE – – The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska filed a federal lawsuit today against Valley County Hospital on behalf of a nurse who was fired after warning her superiors about dangerous patient care practices.

“”The First Amendment protects public employees who speak out on matters of public concern,”” said Tim Butz, Executive Director of the ACLU of Nebraska. “”Nurse Lisa Lech took her duty to her patients seriously and tried to fix a dangerous problem, and rather than fix the problem the hospital sought to silence her.””

Lech had been a licensed practical nurse for 16 years when she was terminated in January 2000 after complaining to hospital officials that high staffing ratios, which violated both the hospital’s own policies as well as state regulations, were placing patients in danger.

According to the ACLU lawsuit, Lech had filed internal reports complaining to the hospital and its administrator, Colleen Chapp, that the surgical and acute care ratios had grown to 5 to 1 and 6 to 1 rather than the 3 to 1 ratio required by Nebraska Department of Health regulations.

The hospital, which is operated by the Valley County government, will have 20 days to reply to the lawsuit.

“”This caring nurse acted in manner that every patient hopes for in a health care professional,”” Butz said. “”She was concerned about the health and safety of her vulnerable patients, and her reward for caring was a summary termination made in an attempt to silence her as a patient advocate.””

ACLU cooperating attorney Joy Shiffermiller of the firm of Polsky, Cope, Shiffermiller, Coe and Monzon filed the lawsuit. ACLU of Nebraska Foundation Legal Director Amy Miller will assist Ms. Shiffermiller in this case.

The legal brief in the case in available online at: http://archive.aclu.org/court/lech.pdf.

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