A former nursing home employee, who reported to state health officials that he found an elderly patient lying in a pool of urine and who photographed another patient’s severe bedsore to show his superiors, will be allowed to proceed with his whistle-blower and wrongful termination lawsuit. Judge Hamilton Gayden denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Michael Cantrell, a licensed practical nurse, whose complaint triggered a state inspection resulting in a temporary shutdown of the Imperial Gardens Health and Rehabilitation Center located in Madison, Tenn. It was contended by Cantrell that he was fired in retaliation for his “doing the right thing.” A lawyer for the nursing home claims that Cantrell violated work rules and patient privacy laws when he used his cellphone to take a picture of the bedsore.
Cantrell was on temporary assignment to Imperial Gardens in November of last year when a technician called him to the patient’s room. It was alleged that the patient was soaked in her own urine. On the same day, it was alleged that Cantrell observed severe bedsores on another female patient, who had not had a bowel movement in 10 days and was in severe pain as a result. The lawsuit also alleges that Cantrell observed a male patient who had fallen and was calling for help. When he went to get help, he said, the nurse told him: “The resident falls all the time. He is not all there and he does not know what he is doing.”
After Cantrell reported the poor patient conditions to his superiors, he was first suspended and soon thereafter fired. Cantrell then reported the conditions he observed to the state health department. The subsequent inspection by state health inspectors resulted in a highly critical 143-page report citing multiple violations of state and federal regulations. In late February Imperial Gardens was ordered to shut down and transfer its patients to other facilities. The facility was allowed to reopen in April.
A lawyer for Imperial Gardens said the whistle-blower law did not apply because Cantrell failed to meet its reporting requirements. The lawyer also disputed the claim that Cantrell’s actions met the requirements of the state laws against abuse of the elderly. He claimed that Cantrell was fired, not in retaliation, but because he violated work rules barring the photographing of patients. Cantrell is represented by R. Stephen Waldron, a lawyer with Walden, Fann, & Parsley, based in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
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