By Debbie Gregory.
The Army has settled with a medical technologist who was reprimanded for whistleblowing unsafe patient conditions at a major military hospital.
In 2014, Teresa Gilbert, an Army civilian infection control analyst at Womack Army Medical Center reported lax infection control policies to a hospital accreditation group. Specifically, Gilbert told the Joint Commission that the hospital had not addressed long-standing problems with unsterilized instruments, failure to disinfect medical devices, and supervisors who lacked the requisite training and education in infection control.
Gilbert said she was reprimanded for being an obstructionist, reduced to part-time hours, investigated for what she called trumped-up charges and transferred to a clerk’s job.
According to the OSC, an independent federal investigative agency that specialized in whistleblower protection, Gilbert’s supervisors subsequently barred her from any participation in improving infection control at the hospital.
Later, Gilbert received a notice that she had been recommended for removal for improperly gaining access to her own medical records and those of Tiffany Tighe, her son’s girlfriend, and disclosing Tighe’s medical information to one or more people.
In a telephone interview, Tighe said the charges left her dumbfounded. When an Army investigator called Tighe, she insisted that Mrs. Gilbert had never violated her privacy. “He told me that the case would be closed for lack of evidence,” she said.
It was not. Gilbert was transferred to a clerk’s desk, without a computer, a telephone or duties. “People I have known for 20 years were afraid to talk to me,” she said. A subsequent OSC investigation found the charges to be bogus.
The Army and Gilbert reached a settlement that includes a monetary settlement and removal of negative information from her employment records. Gilbert’s reporting eventually led to Womack chief Col. Steven J. Brewster being removed from his position and disciplinary action against several other staffers.