A nurse who was fired from Ketchikan’s hospital after raising concerns about patient and staff safety has settled her case before the National Labor Relations Board.
Signs went up at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center in recent weeks telling workers they have the right to raise safety issues to their superiors without fear of retaliation.
The 14-inch posters are a condition of a settlement between Ketchikan’s hospital and Marian Weber. She’s a traveling nurse who lost her job there after raising concerns that COVID-19 patients weren’t being properly monitored and that a plan to place nurses in the room with patients for hours at a time would put staff at risk.
The posters detail exactly what the hospital is doing to make up for the firing: paying Weber for the wages she would have earned if she’d finished her 17-week contract, reimbursing her travel expenses and removing any reference to Weber’s firing from personnel records.
Notices are also showing up in nurses’ email inboxes. Weber, who’s now on an assignment in Vermont, says her former colleagues have been reaching out.
“My phone blew up with text messages from PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center staff members that I’m still in contact with that said, ‘Hey, I just got this notice in my email,’ ‘Hey, thank you for staying the course and fighting for this important issue,'” Weber said in an interview this month.
A senior PeaceHealth executive at the center of the controversy left her job abruptly and relocated days after KRBD published Weber’s account.
In the settlement, the medical center will pay Weber more than $60,000 in lost wages and travel expenses, though Weber says a large portion of that will be eaten up by attorneys’ fees. But she says the settlement sends a message.
“I think there was kind of a mentality more on an administrative level that travel nurses there are expendable,” she said. “And I think one thing that shows is that you cannot just dispose of a health care worker when they’re voicing valid safety concerns — that you will be held responsible.”
Weber says the settlement isn’t the end of her fight with Ketchikan’s hospital. She says federal workplace safety regulators are still investigating, and she’s considering further legal action.
“I’ll just say at this time that I’m investigating all avenues to hold a system accountable,” she said. “We’re not talking about a one-off incident.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the medical center said that patient and caregiver safety was their top priority.
“One way PeaceHealth helps to ensure this is that all caregivers—no matter their role—have the ability to confidentially raise opportunities to ensure safer care,” spokesperson Kate Govaars said.