Support grows for ousted nurse
ASPEN Accolades from cancer patients continue to mount for oncology nurse Barbara Stirling, whom Aspen Valley Hospital fired earlier this month. Hospital officials insist that confidentiality rules do not permit them to confirm that the hospital fired the nurse, let alone talk about the reasons behind the dismissal. One official, however, admitted that the hospital’s board of directors has reviewed the case.Stirling, 62, had worked with cancer patients at AVH for 11 years, and said this week that she was fired Oct. 4 without warning or justification. According to Stirling, hospital officials told her she was terminated for ignoring a rule requiring that all orders for treatment come with a doctor’s signature.The physician with whom she mainly works, Dr. Doug Rovira, practices primarily in Denver and comes to Aspen three days a month. Both he and Stirling have said they were unaware of the importance the hospital places on the policy, and that he often would issue a treatment order over the phone and provide written documentation later.AVH spokeswoman Ginny Dyche declined to discuss any specific employee’s situation. She said the policy requires that a doctor sign-off on all orders for treatment within 48 hours, whether by fax machine or in person.Said Stirling: “They don’t know what they’re talking about.” Stirling said that when her supervisor told her she was being fired, the reason was that she failed to comply with the signature policy within 24 hours.”I’m furious about what has happened to Barbara,” said one of her patients, John Badalian of Aspen. “Without her help, I would be a lot sicker, if not dead.”Badalian was diagnosed six years ago with multiple myeloma, a form of bone cancer that compromises the immune system. He has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment at AVH.”You’re dealing with extremely sick people,” said Badalian, 57, “and they need their medicines right now, not in three days when some doctor will sign a crummy piece of paper.”Badalian said that once, several years ago, an insurance company refused to pay for his cancer medication, thalidomide, because “they said it was an experimental drug.”But Stirling and another nurse, he said, “fought them on it” and convinced the insurance company to pay for the medication.”There aren’t that many people who will help you,” Badalian said. “To fire somebody that good is just mind-blowing.”Dyche explained the AVH policies: “We take issues related to employees very seriously. We don’t make quick decisions; we don’t act without serious consideration of all aspects.”And, she said, in some cases the hospital administration takes matters to the board of directors.Dyche said Stirling’s case has received attention from the board. “It did rise to the board level,” she said. Hospital CEO David Ressler is out of town until next week and was unavailable for comment, Dyche said.John Colson’s e-mail address email@example.com
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