Surgical Technician Fired, Claims Retaliation
DENVER (CBS4) – A surgical technician at the Midtown Surgery Center in Denver who reported a suspected drunk doctor last year has been terminated, a move he calls retaliation for whistleblowing.
“Certainly everything I reported was geared toward making it a safer place to work,” said Robert “Dave” Record.
On Oct. 13, 2009, Record told supervisors he believed anesthesiologist Dr. John Valentine was drunk on the job. Record and a second employee reported Valentine reeking of alcohol early in the morning and acting erratically. Record says Valentine twice grabbed Record’s crotch and made lewd comments.
One week later, Oct. 20, Dr. Valentine wrote Record a note saying “I want to formally apologize for my behavior … I own up to my actions. It was totally unacceptable on my part. I assure you that it will never happen again.”
Two weeks later the State Board of Medical Examiners issued an emergency order suspending Valentine’s license to practice medicine. That order is still in effect.
Record filed a lawsuit in May 2010 against his employer HealthOne of Denver, Denver Midtown Surgery Center and Colorado Anesthesia Consultants claiming they were negligent in supervising Dr. Valentine and allowing him to continue working.
On Aug. 10, HealthOne and the Midtown Surgery Center fired Record “for cause,” according to a letter given to the surgical tech. While the letter does not outline the reasons for the termination, Record says supervisors told him he was disruptive at work, a “bully” and was creating a hostile work environment. He says he was told that 40 percent of his coworkers had complained about him.
But Record’s latest “Performance Review” from April 2010, four months ago, seems to tell a different story. In every category measured, Record’s managers said he either met or exceeded expectations. He scored 90 out of a possible 100 points. They gave him the highest score possible for his ability to work and interact as a member of his department.
“Ultimately it came down to the fact I was a whistleblower,” Record says. “It was complete retaliation. It’s sad that people who stand up for what is right are the ones who are ultimately punished. It shouldn’t be that way.”
A spokesperson for HealthOne, Leslie Horna, confirmed Record was no longer employed by the company but said she could not elaborate because “HealthOne does not comment on company personnel issues …”
Horna wrote that HealthOne strongly disagreed with Record’s assertions in his lawsuit and said the company would “vigorously fight these claims.”
“HealthOne’s first and foremost priority at Midtown Surgical Center is to ensure our patients have the safest and most comfortable surgery experience,” wrote Horna. “We have had numerous state, national accreditation and other quality surveys the past several months and Midtown has met all requirements and had no quality of care deficiencies. HealthOne and Midtown are responsive to all concerns and questions raised, whether by staff or patients, to ensure our patients are receiving the highest caliber care.”
Paul Maxon, Robert Record’s attorney, calls this a “clear cut case of retaliation. This is a consequence of standing up for what is right,” said Maxon.” He complained about a doctor being drunk at work, he complained about surgical equipment not being sterile and he was fired.”
On Aug. 19 a Denver District Court Judge denied a motion to dismiss Record’s lawsuit. The Judge wrote Record “has alleged sufficient facts” for the lawsuit over negligent supervision of Dr. Valentine to continue.
Dr. Valentine previously indicated to CBS4 he was not interested in commenting on the case.
– Written by Brian Maass