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About a month ago I wrote about nurses who came forth to speak out against hospitals not up to par. However, it seems that no good deed goes unpunished. Recently, two Texas nurses were attempting to follow suit to also help keep their patients safe from poor hospital conditions. Instead, they are being indicted for anonymously filing a complaint against a doctor for mistreatment of his patients.

The two nurses, Anne Mitchell and Vicki Galle filed a complaint letter on April 7, 2009 against Dr. Roland Arafiles for allegedly urging patients at the Winkler County Memorial Hospital and the county’s rural health clinic to buy herbal medications from him. The complaint also maintains that Dr. Arafiles attempted to use hospital supplies to perform a medical procedure at a patient’s home. Consequently, Dr. Arafiles filed a harassment complaint with the Winkler County Sheriff’s Office, after he was notified by the Texas Medical Board that he was under investigation for poor quality of care and mistreatment of patients. The sheriff’s office deduced who had filed the complaint, and the county prosecutor subsequently filed charges against the two nurses.

While the Texas Medical Board says the two women did nothing wrong, the indictment argues that the nurses improperly accessed non-public information “with intent to harm” Dr. Arafiles for “a nongovernmental purpose.” However, the Texas Medical Board continues to defend the women, stating that it is their duty, as nurses, to report questionable actions to maintain the safety of their patients. Dr. Arafiles declined to comment on the allegations, stating that the situation was a legal matter between Mitchell, Galle, and the state of Texas. However, the women could each face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The American Nurses Association and their Texas affiliate are extremely concerned that the indictment could set a precedence that would make other nurses fearful of retaliation if they dared come forward as witnesses to poor medical care.

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