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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Kaiser Fired Nurse After Co-Worker Took Meds

RIVERSIDE (CN) - A surgical nurse was fired after reporting an impaired co-worker's taking medication on the job, according to a Riverside County Superior Court lawsuit.

Gigi M. Garcia sued Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Southern California Permanente Medical Group for health and safety code violations, wrongful termination and retaliation.

Garcia had been a nurse for Kaiser for close to 15 years, and "received extensive praise" until she expressed safety concerns about a nurse under her supervision, according to the complaint.

Garcia complained that the nurse, Beth Willis-Mitchem, was disruptive, and was an alcoholic who "admitted to plaintiff that she was self-medicating while working," the complaint states.

While Garcia made verbal and written complaints, and knew that other employees also complained, "Kaiser failed to substantively respond to any of her letters/emails and did not take any corrective measures whatsoever," she says.

According to the complaint: Willis-Mitchem had been throwing things, and laughing extremely loud. Willis-Mitchem's "moods were erratic and at times hyper and almost manic."

The complaint continues: She had been putting her patients in other departments' rooms, did pain management intake at the nurses' station when there was a room available, and twice was observed not properly sterilizing instruments, exposing patients to the possibility of infection. She also was unable to operate an EKG machine, and was putting her initials on open bottles of medication.

When Garcia saw Willis-Mitchem "leaving work to drive home obviously impaired, plaintiff was concerned about her safety and ability to drive. Plaintiff sought to access the nurse's records to verify what medications she had taken at work and to find out if those medications had been taken illegally," the complaint states.

Garcia was suspended a few days later, and then fired a week after that, according to the complaint.

Garcia requests a jury trial and seeks an injunction, substantial lost earnings and benefits, damages for physical distress and aggravation, punitive damages, legal costs and attorney's fees.

Garcia is represented by Charles Mathews of Arcadia.

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