As a nurse in Los Angeles, Vita Olivo has cared for some of the biggest names in Hollywood, but she alleges that her former employer, Specialty Surgical Center of Beverly Hills, put patients at risk by cutting essential resources from the budget. She claims a celebrity abruptly left a session after a botched IV insertion.
Olivo is now suing the clinic for wrongful termination, retaliation, age discrimination, defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and failure to provide meal and rest break periods. Getting the star treatment might not be so glamorous after all.
“Substandard, Inexperienced and Poorly Trained”
According to Olivo’s lawsuit filed in Santa Monica Superior Court, “The facilities are well known in the community and are frequented by numerous famous and wealthy patients.”
A representative for the Specialty Surgical Center didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Documents show Olivo has been a nurse for over 30 years. She was hired by the clinic in 2012 and primarily worked in the ophthalmology and surgical departments. The suit claims that Olivo, 56, was so skilled at her job that she was often asked to assist doctors and nurses outside of her department.
However, Olivo became concerned when the clinic started hiring “substandard, inexperienced and poorly trained” nurses who could not even properly insert an IV, according to the suit.
She claims that the hospital tried to save money by hiring recent graduates that had little to no hospital experience that would accept a lower rate of pay.
The lawsuit also claims the clinic was regularly short-staffed, which only put additional pressure on workers like Olivo that knew how to do their jobs. The clinic hired a new administrator in 2019 to help the company save money “at the cost of patient care and legal requirements,” the suit states.
“Despite having no medical background, (the administrator) made decisions affecting medical treatment, with predictably disastrous results for patients and employees,” legal filings read.
The lawsuit adds that the new administrator often singled Olivo out for being older, more experienced, and receiving a higher rate of pay than the other employees. She was often asked to assist new nurses that didn’t know how to properly insert an IV. Olivo found herself doing as many as 45 insertions in a day.
Famous patients regularly complained about the substandard care. Olivio claims that a celebrity walked out after being unsuccessfully struck with an IV three times.
“Ms. Olivo was quickly called in to start the IV and successfully did so on the first attempt, allowing this famous patient to undergo his scheduled procedure,” according to the suit, which doesn’t disclose the name of the famous patient.
The suit adds that a “hurried doctor” mistakenly inserted an IV into the patient’s right arm instead of the left. When he realized his mistake, he told the staff to “keep the patient under” by applying more anesthesia.
Olivo claims the clinic never notified the patient of the mistake and that the company falsified the record to cover its tracks.
“This was the type of dangerously sloppy conduct that Ms. Olivo tried to prevent and correct,” the suit goes on to say.
The lack of staff also prevented workers like Olivo from taking proper rest and meal breaks.
“This was not only a violation of legal requirements, but also created further safety issues because the staff was exhausted and deprived of adequate time to eat, drink water and take brief breaks,” the suit states. “Both employees and patients were seriously endangered.”
The lawsuit states that the administrator “sought a reason to eliminate Ms. Olivo from their employment” after she spoke out about the cost cuts.
She also claims that the clinic tried to blame her after a patient accidentally fell while she was on duty.
The clinic “seized upon this incident to falsely accuse Ms. Olivo of negligence, falsely accuse her of falsifying paperwork, falsely blame Ms. Olivo for the patient’s fall without properly investigating the incident and to terminate her employment,” the suit states.
Olivo maintains she didn’t do anything wrong. The patient wasn’t a fall risk, had gone through a non-surgical procedure, and had asked for privacy while using the restroom, the suit states.
The clinic claims that it fired Olivo for safety issues. The suit adds that the clinic accused her of not doing a proper assessment of the patient after they fell.
“In fact, Specialty Surgical Center waited until Ms. Olivo had completed another work shift before terminating her,” the suit alleges. “If Ms. Olivo were truly a threat to patient safety, she would not have been permitted to work another full shift before her termination.”