The Investigators: Lead nurse says ‘culture of retaliation’ cost her job, management put patients at risk

The Investigators

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Three complaints. One accusation. Employees at Unity Point Proctor claiming hospital managers punished them for voicing workplace complaints.

Some of them allegedly involving safety issues. One nurse called her experience a “culture of retaliation.”

Smiling in graduation pictures, a newly licensed nurse was unaware that just three years later she would be the patient.

“I was breaking out in rashes,” said Kathryn Jacobs. “My adrenaline glands shut down.”

Jacobs worked at Unity Point Health Proctor before stress took her off the job. She said it was induced not by the daily pressures of patient care but, by hospital management.

“I ended up developing thyroid issues,” said Jacobs. “My hair fell out.”

As a lead nurse for general surgery, Jacobs said it was her job to protect patients not just from illness, but also from error. She alerted her bosses to a range of problems. She said those problems included staffing shortages, missing medical equipment, unsterilized equipment and more.

Come June Of 2018, Jacobs reporting an intubation cart, contaminated and abandoned overnight.

“What is the importance of it?” asked Eiten. “What if there’s a patient who needs that and it’s not there? What happens?”

“Not a good outcome,” responded Jacobs. “Thankfully, they’ve been lucky some of the time.”

Jacobs said her concerns came at a cost. She said she experienced sudden scheduling changes, denied vacation time and vicious rumors. She believes her punishment for red-flagging potentially dangerous mistakes.

“If it was your mom or your sister or you, you would want to make sure everything was correct,” said Jacobs. “If something is not working right and there’s a patient’s life on your hands, I would think you would want to make the corrections and do better”

So, Jacobs went up the chain filing a grievance with Proctor in July of 2018 alleging that her boss retaliated against her because she writes “accurately and appropriately reported incidents.” Days later, Jacobs was demoted losing her title as a lead nurse.

“I would call it a culture of retaliation,” said Jacobs.

She’s not the only one. Documents uncovered by WMBD Investigators claim retaliation on repeat.

Three separate complaints, one of them made by Jacobs, to the National Labor Relations Board accuse hospital management of disciplining employees for quote “vocalizing workplace complaints.” One of the charges even alleges the hospital fired an employee for going to the labor board quote “to discourage other employees from engaging in such activity.”

In a statement to WMBD Central Illinois Unity Point Health CEO Keith Knepp wrote:

“As part of our culture and our commitment to continuous improvement, we actively encourage employee input into our operations and take their feedback seriously. It is through our many dedicated employees and physicians that we are able to provide high-quality care to the patients and families we serve throughout Central Illinois. However, out of respect for employees throughout our organization, we do not publicly discuss personnel matters.”

CEO Keith Knepp

Jacobs has since settled her labor board complaint with the hospital. Another charge has been withdrawn. The third complaint is still open.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Latest Local News

More Local News