February 21, 2023

Nurse Sues OSF Healthcare For Alleged Retaliation by Termination

Nurse Sues OSF Healthcare For Alleged Retaliation by Termination

Lisa Comrie, 54,  a nurse for over 25 years and risk management regional director, filed a lawsuit against OSF HealthCare for retaliation after being terminated. According to her attorney, David Fish from Fish Potter Bolaños Law Firm, OSF HealthCare fired Comrie for reporting to and opposing management, both verbally and in writing. 

Comrie's complaints were about the policies and practices that risk patients' health and safety at certain facilities in March 2022. The OSF facilities include: 

  • Heart of Mary Medical Center

  • Danville

  • Sacred Heart Medical Center

  • Urbana 

Why The Lawsuit Was Filed

Comrie was terminated in March 2022. She began that position in 2017 with OSF HealthCare predecessor at Presence Health in Danville and Urbana. When OSF took possession of the other hospitals, she continued to work for them as the eastern regional director of case management.  

There is a list of incidences that Comrie states led to her being terminated in retaliation for her complaints. One of them was gender discrimination. 

Some of these incidents include the treatment of a deceased patient's body who was COVID-19 positive and was unable to get through the morgue's door due to obesity in October 2021. Comrie found a morgue, outside of operating hours, that would accept the patient's body, which led to further decomposition. The furthered decomposition of the body may violate Illinois state law that requires the dignified treatment of a patient’s remains as an increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 to others in the facility. 

According to the News Gazette, the president of the hospital helped Comrie move the patient's body because of the funeral home's lack of manpower. Comrie's complaint to management stated that "OSF HealthCare lacked a transparent process for handling deceased bodies of unclaimed patients after being transported to the hospital's morgue."

What's in The OSF Lawsuit

The suit continues claiming that "As a result of this failure, deceased patients' remains languished in OSF hospitals' morgues for months. The corpses would begin to liquify, allowing malodorous smells to leak outside the morgue due to neglect and delay."

Due to Comrie's actions, according to the lawsuit, "Had the plaintiff stood by and refused to take the actions she did, the deceased patient's body described above would have remained in the ICU outside of cold storage for hours and likely days." Instead, "OSF terminated Comrie for her opposition to its abhorrent treatment of deceased patients' remains and for her resolution of the incident with the obese patient."

This patient's story isn't the only allegation listed in the 22-page lawsuit. There was another incident where a patient was discharged unsafely from the emergency department with no way to walk. The patient was instructed if they didn't leave, they would call the police. Once the police arrived on the scene, the patient was not breathing, and CPR was needed. The patient died later that day after being admitted to a hospital room. 

What Happens Next

The lawsuit was filed in federal court Tuesday, January 31, 2023, against OSF HealthCare, whose headquarters is located in Peoria. The plaintiff, Comrie, is asking to reinstate her job or to be awarded money in damages. The case is proceeding in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Urbana. 

David Fish, the attorney, commented to the  News Gazette that "We're proud of her for standing up and being a whistleblower. She's obviously taking a lot of risks by coming forward and by filing this lawsuit and is going against a massive employer and health care organization, but she feels very strongly in her claim." Fish added that "she is still looking for a job" after her termination in 2022.  

OSF HealthCare Officials have yet to comment on the pending litigation. 

Nurse.org reached out to OSF HealthCare for a comment and has not received a response at the time of publication. 

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