Physician Files Whistleblower Lawsuit Against Catholic Charities of Washington Charging That It Provided Dangerously Inadequate Medical Care at Two Washington Area Clinics
Lawsuit Charges that Catholic Charities Fired Staff Physician for Complaining About Serious Lapses in Medical Care Provided to Poor, Spanish-Speaking Immigrants that Caused Grave Risks to Patients
WASHINGTON, April 8, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Dr. Charles C. Briggs filed a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit today in D.C. Superior Court against Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington in connection with the organization's failure to rectify serious medical violations committed against patients at its clinics in Washington, D.C. and Langley Park, MD. In 2007, Dr. Briggs, a veteran physician, returned from retirement to take a job working at Catholic Charities' two Washington-area clinics, motivated by a strong commitment to provide medical care to the clinics' largely poor, uninsured Spanish-speaking immigrant population. According to the lawsuit, during his three years of employment with Catholic Charities, Dr. Briggs observed that the medical services provided by the organization failed to meet the requisite standard of care and constituted severe failures in patient care, in violation of federal, state and local laws. Dr. Briggs responded by repeatedly notifying Catholic Charities officials that lapses in patient care and poor clinical practices at Catholic Charities' clinics jeopardized patients, charging that such shoddy practices may have contributed in at least one case to a patient's death. The lawsuit alleges that on multiple occasions Dr. Briggs notified his superiors at Catholic Charities that its clinics:
- failed to triage walk-in patients in a timely manner, leading, in one instance, to a medical emergency that almost resulted in a patient's death;
- failed to process and label pap smears;
- failed to process lab tests that were screening for serious conditions such as cancer;
- failed to follow-up on critical lab results in a timely manner;
- failed to process prescription drug refills in a timely manner; and
- failed to effectively monitor a seriously ill patient's critical lab tests in a manner that may have contributed to that patient's death.
The lawsuit further alleges that Dr. Briggs notified his superiors that Catholic Charities received money from the state and local governments to provide free flu shots to its patients, but instead charged patients for these vaccinations and pocketed the money.
The Complaint charges that after Dr. Briggs repeatedly brought these issues to the attention of officials at Catholic Charities and insisted that these serious failures be immediately corrected, the officials responded by subjecting him to a campaign of retaliatory harassment, intimidation, and abuse in order to cover up their negligence. After months of his raising these deficiencies in patient care, Catholic Charities terminated Dr. Briggs' employment on October 1, 2010, stating that his termination was warranted because his well-founded complaints were "too disruptive."
According to Alexis Ronickher, an attorney with the D.C. civil rights law firm Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP, "For hundreds of poor Hispanic families with no health insurance, many of whom speak little English, Catholic Charities was the place they trusted they could go for quality health care. But Catholic Charities violated that trust by providing dangerously inadequate care that may in fact have led to at least one death. When Dr. Briggs blew the whistle on these practices and tried to get these problems addressed, Catholic Charities didn't act; instead it assumed that the patient population was so unsophisticated that even if they found out, they wouldn't know what to do. And worse yet, Catholic Charities officials fired Dr. Briggs for telling his superiors what they didn't want to hear."
"I decided to file this lawsuit to seek justice not only for myself," explained Dr. Briggs, "but for the hundreds of immigrant families who've suffered medical danger as a result of Catholic Charities' unconscionable record of neglect. Hopefully by filing suit and making my allegations public, I will help to ensure that Catholic Charities will finally fix the systemic problems I discovered and provide the type of medical treatment that would warrant the level of trust its patients place in it."
According to Debra S. Katz , a partner with Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP, "Dr. Briggs was harassed, mistreated, and robbed of his career because he refused to overlook the shoddy care that Catholic Charities provided to many of its patients and because he refused to remain silent in the face of the serious patient risks he saw day after day. Dr. Briggs did the right thing. In bringing this lawsuit, we hope and expect that a jury of their peers will send a strong message to Catholic Charities that retaliation is illegal and will not be tolerated."
SOURCE Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP
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