By: Kathleen Curthoys
February 5, 2018
OSC found that a pattern of retaliatory personnel actions against Gilbert aggravated the seriousness of the hospital’s infection control problems and increased the risk to patients. Those actions were likely a deterrent to others who may be whistleblowers, the report said, and the supervisor deserved discipline for actions that violated personnel policy.
A federal agency that protects government whistleblowers criticized the Army on Monday for declining to discipline a staff member at its Fort Bragg, North Carolina, hospital after an investigation found failures in infection control that put service members and families at risk.
Whistleblower Teresa Gilbert was a board-certified infection control technician at Womack Army Medical Center who reported violations of infection control policies in early 2014 that she said presented a health and safety threat to troops and family members at the hospital.
She reported that Womack staff members failed to correct infection control deficiencies that an earlier inspection had found, including dirty and unsterilized medical equipment, according to a redacted 2017 report by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the independent federal agency tasked with safeguarding whistleblowers from reprisal.
A supervisor retaliated against Gilbert by restricting her access to infection control practices and patient medical records and excluding her from meetings, the OSC report said. The supervisor also cut her work hours to half days, requiring her to take four hours of leave each day and then charging her with being absent without leave for not submitting leave requests for that time, the OSC report said. In addition, Gilbert was threatened that she would be removed from the hospital unit.
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