Top official at AVH says firing of nurse was taken seriously
October 20, 2007
ASPEN ” Aspen Valley Hospital’s top official has indicated that the decision to fire a popular oncology nurse after 11 years of employment was not taken lightly.
CEO David Ressler, who is out of town on hospital business, responded by e-mail to questions about the Oct. 4 dismissal of popular oncology nurse Barbara Stirling.
Stirling claims she was fired for failing to comply with a hospital policy that requires nurses to get signed, written orders from a doctor each time a treatment is needed.
Stirling, who works primarily with a Denver physician who comes to Aspen only three days a month, maintains she and other nurses historically have taken verbal orders from the doctors, with the understanding that signed documents would arrive at a later point. She also asserts that, despite the fact that other nurses have acted in the same way, she is the only nurse to be fired over the matter.
Hospital spokeswoman Ginny Dyche consistently has declined to discuss the firing itself, citing confidentiality rules. But she has confirmed the decision to fire Stirling had the approval of both the board of directors and the top brass at the hospital.
Ressler, in an e-mail to The Aspen Times, wrote, “I agree with all of the representations made by Ginny, and we have in fact spoken regarding [the newspaper’s] inquiries.”
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Declining to talk about the details of Stirling’s case, Ressler confirmed Dyche’s statement about the board’s participation.
“This matter did rise to the level of Board discussion in executive session,” Ressler wrote. “Since individual employee matters rarely do, it is evident that this situation was more serious than has been represented to be the case. In addition, it is important to note that our deliberations were more thoughtful than have been represented,” presumably a reference to Stirling’s remarks to a reporter.
“Second,” Ressler wrote, “patient safety is and has always been Aspen Valley Hospital’s first priority and concern. Every difficult decision that our hospital makes considers the best interests of our patients and their safety above anything else. Preventing harm is a hospital’s first responsibility, and we are unwavering in that pursuit.”
Stirling has said that patient safety and welfare are her primary concerns, as well.
She also has questioned the veracity of statements made by hospital officials, such as Dyche’s contention that nurses are given up to 48 hours to obtain written, signed orders from doctors. Stirling said she was informed by her supervisor that she had been fired, she also was told the policy allowed only 24 hours to obtain the notice.
“Finally,” wrote Ressler, “we are sympathetic to the feelings and frustrations of some of our past and present oncology patients who have had favorable relationships with Barb as their oncology nurse. There is a special bond established between caregiver and patient that we understand and encourage. That said, given the totality and gravity of all of the circumstances, we are confident in our decision ” albeit a difficult one. It is regrettable that the seriousness of the situation required the actions that were taken. It is also unfortunate that, by both law and good judgment, we cannot and should not say more.”
Stirling, reached Friday at her home, said she had no comment on the matter at this point.