An Embarrassing Night in the Emergency Room
CINCINNATI (CN) - A hospital fired a worker after she reported that her co-workers mocked a patient who had a dildo so far up his rectum that it had to be surgically removed, the woman claims in court.
Rachel Ellis sued the Christ Hospital and her former direct supervisor, Paula Schneider, in Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas.
"On Thursday, February 7, 2013, Ms. Ellis was working a late shift at Christ Hospital, in the registrar area in the emergency department," the lawsuit states.
"Around 10:45 pm, one of Ms. Ellis' colleagues, another registrar, came running back from the front desk, laughing out loud, and told Ms. Ellis that she was 'calling dibs' on registering a patient who had just checked in.
"Ms. Ellis viewed the patient intake board and saw that a patient had just checked in complaining of having 'something up my butt.'
"Within moments, Ellis sensed a 'buzz' growing among her other colleagues in the same area.
"Within moments, two other Christ Hospital employees (one other registrar and one housekeeper) joined the original registrar and all of them began laughing and mocking the patient, and excitedly talking jokingly about the patient's condition.
"At some point, Ms. Ellis heard the three Christ Hospital employees talking about the patient having a 'dildo up his ass,' that was so far up the patient's rectum that the patient could not remove the dildo.
"At the time, Ms. Ellis, being somewhat naïve, had absolutely no idea what a 'dildo' was and was unaware of the patient's medical condition.
"Around this same time, one of the hospital employees, with access to the patient's Protected Health Information and the patient's X-ray showing his embarrassing condition, published this information on a computer and/or board in an area where all hospital employees could see it - including doctors with absolutely no involvement in this patient's care, and non-medical staff, including housekeeping staff."
As the crowd of co-workers grew, Ellis says, she continued working, as "one physician told the crowd that he had 'stuck his fingers up as far as they would go and could barely touch the bottom [of the dildo].'" (Brackets in complaint.)
After her shift ended, Ellis claims, she looked at the X-ray for the first time, and "was confused and still did not understand what the patient's condition was, or why this condition would be so sensational and amusing to so many hospital employees."
"Admittedly, at some point, Ms. Ellis remarked that one of the numerous hospital employees should send her the picture, so she could try to understand what was so humorous to the hospital employees," she says in the complaint.
Ellis claims she eventually received a picture message on her phone containing the X-ray, whereupon she "began realizing the seriousness and nature of the patient's condition, and the inappropriate behavior of the large crowd of hospital employees involved in taking pictures of the X-rays and laughing about and mocking the patient's problem."
Ellis says she deleted the picture immediately and "within twelve hours of the incident - as soon as she woke up the next morning ... reported the incident with Ms. Schneider, her direct supervisor."
Though she was scheduled to work, Ellis says, "Ms. Schneider called Ms. Ellis later that day and told Ms. Ellis not to come into work that day.
"Ms. Schneider also demanded that Ms. Ellis not discuss the incident with any other hospital employees, and also not to disclose the patient's name to anyone."
Ellis says that when she returned to work the next Monday, she "was immediately terminated from her job, without any explanation whatsoever as to why she was the only one being terminated, despite her quite limited role in the incident, especially compared with the actions of the physicians, housekeeping staff and other hospital employees."
Ellis seeks damages for wrongful discharge and violations of the Ohio Whistleblower Act.
She claims that not only was she fired, but that "Christ Hospital 'blackballed' Ms. Ellis from getting another job with another medical provider by giving inquiring potential employers negative and untrue information about Ms. Ellis' involvement in the incident (for example, telling potential employers that Ms. Ellis had disclosed Private Health Information, which was completely untrue)." (Parentheses in complaint.)
Ellis is represented by Rodger Moore of Fort Mitchell, Ky.