A whistleblower alleges she was fired from her Minnesota state management position after calling out a “toxic culture of bullying” within the state agency charged with responding to reports of elder abuse and neglect in nursing homes and other care facilities.
Nancy Omondi served as the director of the Minnesota Department of Health’s Health Regulation Division, which oversees several bureaus, including the Health Systems Bureau and the Office of Health Facilities Complaints, from September 2016 to late November 2017. The complaints bureau is the office that investigates reports of elder abuse and neglect in health care facilities and homes.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Ms. Omondi’s firing has triggered new concerns about the Minnesota Department of Health’s poor handling of elder abuse reports.
State senator Karin Housley, who chairs the Senate Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee, says she wants answers as to why Ms. Omondi was terminated just days before she was to meet with an investigator looking into how the State responds to reports of elder abuse, such as neglect, assault, theft, and other wrongdoing.
The investigator was responding to a whistleblower complaint Ms. Omondi had filed with the Minnesota Health Department’s human resources office on Nov. According to the Star Tribune, her whistleblower complaint detailed the bullying that impeded any employee who sought to improve the way things worked within the state agency.
“[Omondi] desperately tried to get the attention of her superiors … but it fell on deaf ears,” Sen. Housley said at a news conference Tuesday, according to the Star Tribune. “What this whistleblower uncovered was a toxic culture of bullying, intimidation, harassment and complete disregard for outside input.”
A lawyer preparing a lawsuit against the Health Department told the Star Tribune that Ms. Omondi’s experience is “a classic whistleblower case.”
“It’s clear they were trying to silence her by terminating her,” the lawyer said.
The Star Tribune notes that reports of elder care abuse and neglect in Minnesota have surged in recent years as the population of seniors in the state grows. In 2016, the Health Department received 25,226 allegations of mistreatment at senior care facilities – seven times the number reported in 2010. The Health Department said that it is trying to keep pace with the complaints but needs additional resources. But Sen. Housley pushed back.
“There should be no more money until we know what they are going to do about this toxic culture,” Sen. Housley said. “No one should be fired for speaking up.”