Registered nurse Sean Kinnie has had a difficult year. He alleges that he was fired from Kindred Healthcare in San Antonio, Texas earlier this year after raising patient safety concerns. He accuses his former employer of needlessly endangering patients, including reducing the number of providers on the floor, putting profits over care, and forcing employees to work in an environment of fear.
Kinnie is now suing the facility for lost wages, reinstatement, and severance pay as well as damages for mental and emotional distress, court, and attorney’s fees. Based on reports of what’s been happening on the ground, it appears to be another case of nurses speaking truth to power. Find out what happened in one San Antonio facility.
Putting Patients in “Grave Danger”
It all started back in November of last year when Kinnie first raised concerns about his employer. According to the details of the lawsuit, he first sent an anonymous complaint to the Joint Commission, an independent agency that accredits U.S. health care organizations based on national standards of healthcare quality.
In the first complaint, he said that patients were put in “grave danger” when there weren’t enough staff members on the floor. This resulted in a range of tragic consequences for the patients. With just one nurse doling out medication, some patients would pull out their IVs or fall and injure themselves when no one was looking. The claim also said that patients weren’t bathed on a regular basis, forcing them to sleep on soiled mattresses. He also alleged that the rooms were cold and poorly lit.
Kinnie also pointed out that the facility’s night monitor tech goes to sleep from 1 to 3 a.m., which means patient monitors were going unattended. One patient died due to the hospital’s slow response times.
After receiving the complaint, the Joint Commission conducted an on-site review of the Kindred Healthcare facility. However, based on the records, the commission declined to revoke the facility’s accreditation.
However, he says these problems persisted.
The Threat of Retaliation
The lawsuit goes on to describe additional cases of misconduct. Kinnie says he continued to work in fear of retaliation, describing “a workplace culture in which employees were afraid to stand up for the patients.”
At the start of 2020, Kinnie says the Kindred facility closed the intensive care unit to redecorate. Patients were moved out of the ICU, a clear violation of safety protocols. He says he tried to move ICU equipment into these non-ICU rooms, only to be reprimanded by his superiors.
He then wrote another letter to the Joint Commission, alleging that he and his colleagues could no longer do their jobs due to the “constant threat of management retaliation.” He also complained of low staffing ratios that put patients at risk, including severe shortages on nights and weekends.
He also called the Kindred compliance hotline to report the facility. The company is based in Louisville, KY with hundreds of facilities all over the country. On the call, he accused his employer of “putting financial considerations above patient care and risking patients’ lives and health as a result.”
After months of frustration, he decided to submit his resignation, but Chief Clinical Officer Sharon Danieliewicz asked him to stay, promising to address his concerns. Kinnie decided to stay and told his boss that he was the one issuing complaints to the Joint Commission.
According to Kinnie, things at the facility only got worse from there. He says Danieliewicz unfairly scrutinized his work in retaliation. He was ultimately suspended twice before being dismissed from the facility on February 24th. Kindred says they fired him for drawing a “culturally insensitive” doodle, but Kinnie denies this.
Now, he’s suing for one million dollars in monetary relief, including lost wages and what Kinnie sees as emotional anguish. As his attorney commented on the lawsuit, “Kindred should have applauded Mr. Kinnie for his efforts to make the hospital safer; instead, they fired him because he would not look the other way.”
If what Kinnie alleges is true, hopefully the court will rule in his favor. Witnessing such abuses on the job can be traumatizing for both providers and patients. Everyone deserves to work in a clean, safe facility that puts people over profits. If you have a similar story to tell, don’t be afraid to speak up and report your employer to a local safety commission.