Protecting the Whistle Blowers

Posted By Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC || 19-Feb-2010

Nurse Anne Mitchell thought she was doing the right thing when she contacted the Texas state medical board to report what she believed to be medical malpractice on the part of Dr. Rolando G. Arafiles, Jr. Mitchell was not only fired by Winkler County Memorial Hospital, where she had worked for 25 years, but she was also slapped with a third-degree felony charge for “misuse of official information.”

The jury deliberated for just about an hour and unanimously found Mitchell not guilty of the charges. Had she been convicted, she could have been sent to prison for up to 10 years and fined up to $10,000. The prosecution claimed Mitchell had it in for Arafiles, who joined the hospital in April 2008. They also accused Mitchell of abusing her power as a nurse to collect patient file numbers, which are confidential, and then spread the information (she included these file numbers in her letter to the state medical board).

Mitchell said she tried to alert hospital administration to Arafiles’ misconduct, which included performing surgery in the emergency room even though he did not have surgical privileges, but that her concerns were not addressed. She then sent an anonymous letter to the state medical board. Coworkers testified on Mitchell’s behalf, supporting her claims that Arafiles provided poor medical care.

Winkler County Memorial Hospital is in a small community, and it seems this case created quite a stir, pitting neighbors against neighbors and so on.

Categories: General