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Retaliation or violation? Hospital fires nurse, nurse fights back.

A recent hospital firing of a nurse has shook up the health care community in Michigan. The hospital stated it fired the nurse due to inappropriate viewing of patient medical records. However, the nurse states this is not accurate. The termination came shortly after the nurse voiced concerns about the facility’s ability to provide care during the current coronavirus pandemic. As a result, he argues the termination is illegal retaliation for speaking out against the hospital.

Retaliation or violation of HIPAA?

Although the hospital states it will not release details to protect confidentiality, it did release a statement claiming the nurse repeatedly viewed health care records for patients that were not receiving treatment on the campus where he worked. The hospital contends the nurse entered into these records without an appropriate business reason to do. As such, they state he violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) – a violation that results in termination.

The nurse states the termination is not the result of a HIPPA violation, but instead retaliation because he pushed the facility to take action to protect its health care workers while responding to COVID-19. The hospital has yet to provide evidence to support the HIPAA violation claim. The nurse has voiced concerns the hospital’s allegations may be connected to use of software that nurses throughout the system had complained about for months. As such, there is concern a potential glitch that the hospital may be using to support these allegations.

What options do nurses have in similar situations?

Nurses who are fired and believe the hospital’s action was not just have options. In this case, the nurse is fighting back by filing a claim with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the facility of federal labor law violations including illegal retaliation.

The former U.S. Marine Corps veteran with no previous disciplinary incidents listed on his record of almost seven years, has stood by his comments and continues to push for the facility to act to better ensure nurses and other health care professionals have a safe work environment. If his claim is successful, the governing agency could require the hospital to reinstate the nurse to his previous or a similar position and provide compensation for lost wages.