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Nearly Killed, then Fired, Kaiser Manager Says

(CN) - After almost dying in routine surgery, a Kaiser manager reported "serious threats to patient care and safety" and was fired, he claims in court.

Kirk Rinella sued Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. in the Central District of Los Angeles Superior Court.

He claims that he worked for Kaiser for nearly 30 years, most recently as a regional manager focused on of quality care and patient safety, when he visited one of the organization's facilities on Sept. 28, 2012, to undergo "a routine outpatient bronchoscopy procedure."

"Unfortunately, the surgery was botched and plaintiff's superior vena cava and aorta were torn," the complaint states. "This caused major complications and resulted in plaintiff almost dying."

Rinella said he spent a month in the hospital and needed several more surgeries.

"While plaintiff was treated by defendant over that month and subsequent months, he discovered numerous issues he reasonably believed were serious threats to patient care and safety," the complaint states.

Rinella allegedly met with Kaiser's senior vice president of quality and risk management this past June, four months after he returned to work, "to voice his objections and concerns" about patient safety. These concerns included not having the proper staff and resources available to address known complications of procedures; not having proper emergency transportation for patient complications that require transportation to another facility; bypassing medical specialty facilities; not following the medically accepted standard of care during procedures; and not informing patients when it has deviated from the standard of care, according to the complaint.

Rinella also allegedly reported the issues to Kaiser in writing.

He said Kaiser co-workers then began retaliating against him.

"Instead of addressing or investigating plaintiff's complaints of patient safety, defendant responding to plaintiff and claimed it was looking into the matters," the complaint states.

Kaiser also allegedly forbade Rinella from discuss his alleged safety concerns at work.

Rinella said he was fired on Oct. 30, "under the pretext that his position was eliminated."

Because he refused "to cover up defendant's unsafe treatment of patients," Kaiser retaliated against Rinella in violation of California labor law, the complaint states.

Rinella also seeks punitive damages for wrongful termination and violation of the California Health and Safety Code.

He is represented by Lauren Morrison with Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob.

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