A whistleblower who lost her job at an Austin, Texas area mental health hospital allegedly for reporting patient mistreatment to state regulators has filed a retaliation complaint, accusing her former employer of violating Texas whistleblower laws.
Plaintiff Nicola Seahorn was hired as the clinical services director at Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute in April 2018. She was on the job just a few months when she became concerned about the mistreatment of patients by hospital staff.
On June 26, the chief nurse notified Ms. Seahorn that a mental health tech had punched a patient in the face, an altercation that was captured on hospital surveillance video.
Ms. Seahorn reported the incident to state regulators. According to her lawsuit, she was fired two weeks later, allegedly in retaliation for reporting it.
According to the Austin Statesman, Ms. Seahorn’s lawsuit also alleges “that the hospital pressured her to keep patients from leaving until the insurance money had maxed out; falsified medical records; did not properly treat patients with lice; and covered up assaults of patients. She also says that the hospital has a mold problem that affected her health and could potentially harm patients.”
Like many states, Texas law has whistleblower protections that bar employers from disciplining, firing, or otherwise punishing employees who report violations of state laws or rules. Ms. Seahorn claims Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute violated her whistleblower protections by terminating her employment after she reported the patient mistreatment.
Ms. Sehorn’s complaint isn’t the first such lawsuit the five-year-old Georgetown hospital has faced. According to the Statesman, in Nov. 2017, another former employee sued the hospital, alleging he was terminated after he reported to management that some of the staff were mistreating patients. Court records indicate that the case may have been settled privately, the Statesman reported.
Other Texas hospitals owned by the same parent company, Signature Healthcare Services, have been implicated in similar lawsuits filed by former employees alleging their employment was wrongfully terminated for reporting poor conditions at the facilities.