Testimony continues in Gateway Medical Center retaliatory discharge suit

By Amelia Flood | Nov 18, 2009

A hospital worker's wrongful discharge trial continued Wednesday in Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder's courtroom.

Jurors had heard testimony in the plaintiff's case Monday and Tuesday.

Defense witnesses testified until late into the afternoon Wednesday, including Sherry Nelson, plaintiff Diane Hughes' former supervisor who allegedly told her to resign or be fired.

Hughes formerly headed up case management at Gateway Medical Center. She claims she was fired for refusing to direct the case managers under her to admit patients who didn't qualify so that the hospital could bill their nursing home, Medicaid and Medicare.

According to her complaint, Hughes was told by her supervisors to admit more than 50 nursing home patients who were evacuated to the hospital following a July 2006 storm that knocked out the power to their Granite City nursing home.

All but a few of the patients, she claims, did not meet the medical guidelines for full admission. Her supervisors allegedly told her to admit all of the nursing home residents anyway.

She did not direct her staff to do so. Two months later, in September, Hughes claims she was told to either resign or be fired.

She is suing for reinstatement, the infliction of emotional distress and other charges under the Illinois Whistleblower's Act. She seeks damages in excess of $50,000 and costs.

Nelson testified that Hughes was not fired for the July nursing home resident incident. Nelson claims that Hughes had a history of showing up late to work, being unavailable, and not addressing problems with the cases she oversaw.

Under cross examination by plaintiff's attorney Dana Deck, Nelson admitted she had not written Hughes up for the alleged problems. She also backtracked on her oral testimony about not believing she would fire Hughes if she had not resigned on the day she was told to.

In court, Nelson said she did not believe she would have fired Hughes that day. In her deposition, she testified she would have.
Nelson said she had issues with the way Hughes viewed the nursing home patients.

After breaking Tuesday afternoon, the trial resumed Wednesday morning.

Hughes is represented by Susan Andorfer and Dana Deck.

The hospital is represented by Richard Behr and Jason Kinser.

The case is Madison case number 07-L-185.

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