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NHRMC denies wrongdoing, settles discrimination suit

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- New Hanover Regional Medical Center will pay $146,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) according to a release on the agency's website. The EEOC had charged that the hospital violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by prohibiting applicants and employees from working if they were taking legally prescribed narcotic medications.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit in federal court, several applicants and employees were not hired or placed on leave by the hospital because they were taking prescribed narcotic medications. The complaint alleged that such action was taken because NHRMC perceived persons taking narcotic medications as being disabled as defined by the ADA.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, the EEOC said. So it filed suit after first attempting to reach a settlement.

In addition to the $146,000 in damages to be divided among the claimants, the two-year consent decree settling the suit requires that New Hanover Regional Medical Center revise its alcohol and drug abuse policy, its post-employment offer medical assessment policy and its medical examination policy. The company must also provide annual training to its managers and supervisors on the ADA and that ADA's prohibition against disability discrimination in the workplace. New Hanover Regional Medical Center must also post an employee notice concerning the lawsuit and employee rights under federal anti-discrimination laws, as well as provide periodic reports to the EEOC.

"At New Hanover Regional Medical Center, our number one priority is and will always be patient care and safety," the hospital said in a statement. "We deny any wrongdoing. We stand by our process to assess each individual employee to ensure their medical needs are met and they can safely complete their specific job responsibilities. We have very high standards for our employees because we are entrusted with the health and safety of the patients we serve.

"We agreed to the settlement to limit the financial impact of this case. This is important in these times when we're working so hard to control costs for our patients. The settlement required the hospital to make minor adjustments to our policies and procedures. These adjustments don't substantially change how we manage these cases. NHRMC remains committed to protecting the health and safety of its patients, employees and visitors while complying fully with all employment laws."

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BEWARE OF NEW HANOVER

I used to work for New Hanover. I know first hand of a death that was covered up so that their wouldn't be a lawsuit. It's the sleeziest hospital. The Management is carefully "trained" to lie, distort, attack the character of any employee that questionns the lack of ethics at that hospital. Usually if you question their behaviors and lies to cover up poor care and dishonesty on the part of the hospital you find yourself being attacked and ultimately fired. This hospital is one of the most corrupt places I've ever worked for. Someone may want to investigate how many "light duty" workers the hospital has in order to avoid Workers Comp cases...their sleeze goes on and on...

Druggies working in the operating Room?

I know when i smoke weed I am much more imaginative and creative. I think it would be a good thing to have everyone in the operating room hopped up on Narcotics, no telling what miracle cures they could come up with!

Govt. Health Care is coming

Hope these medical staff members are the ones taking care of the EEOC employees and their families when they need care.

You had better worry about the "crazy" nurses more.

I know a nurse who works at this hospital and she does not take drugs, but is crazy. If I were in this hospital and she were my nurse I would just walk out.
But if a person is on pain management that is control by a doctor they should be ok to work if their doctor has them on a management plan that does not mess with their body or mind.
Before you judge someone taking pain meds that are prescribed by a doctor you need to know the complete history and facts. Different amounts, people themselves and other things weight into the whole picture. And where one person could take even a over the counter asprin and be completely not right, the next person could take a prescribed low dose pain pill and be fine. This is fact. The whole picture needs to be taken into consideration.
If you are going to get that up tight about pain meds you need to look at all the other meds out there that people take. Some meds for other medical problems can cause lots of problems and could make someone not do their job correctly. Research all meds and see all the side effects and what they could cause before you go jumping on someone taking pain meds.
Sleeping pills can cause people to do things that they would not normal do. Pills for health conditions can cause people to act crazy. I am just saying it is not only pain meds and each case should be judge on its own merit no matter what the med is someone is taking.

EEOC has gone overboard!

I'm shocked by this. No one wants a drug impaired healthcare worker taking care of their family regardless whether it is legal or illegal drugs. I'm all for reasonable accommodations for disabled workers, but this seems overboard. Whose fault is it when an impaired worker hurts someone?

NHRMC Discrimination

I was also a victim of NHRMC discrimnation due to a mediciation I was taking back in 2008. I had already left my previous job and was to start with NHRMC when I was called 2 days before I was supposed to start and I was told I had to meet with the director of the hospital. I went in and spoke to the director who asked me many questions about the job I was to be hired for, would I be working with patients directly (no), what did my basic desk job consist of and then I was told that I could not be hired due to the medicationI was taking. This move by NHRMC left me unemployed for over a year. I would like to know what I can do to be compensated for the discriination I had to face.

Seriously!

Um, why didn't you speak up before now so that you could have been part of the settlement? Sounds like you're just trying to make a quick buck!!

RE: Seriously

@ Seriously, for the record the EEOC contacted everyone about this that they had record of being affected. It wasn't something that anyone would have thought of suing for before the EEOC requested certain people to be a part of the lawsuit.

Can't drive a car, but can remove a kidney!!!

Makes me wonder if I'd be able to sue the hospital if one of their employees was so wacked out on oxycodone that they removed the wrong kidney.
I took some codine after I had a wisdom tooth extracted, let me tell you, I was certainly disabled. Every doctor I've ever seen had me fill out a questionnaire that asks me what prescriptions I'm taking. Do we have the same right to ask health care providers what prescriptions they're taking?

THAT is a Great Idea!

Carol Kramer, THAT is a Great Idea! I would LOVE to be able to force hospitals to disclose not only their staff drug lists, but also how many hours they've been on duty that day/week, AND their success/failure rates on all procedures they'll be performing on me!

AND, while we're at it - How much it's all gonna cost - UP FRONT! If they're gonna charge me $8. for an aspirin, I'll pass, and bring my own!

Only business on earth where they not only claim to not know the prices up front, but they change the prices from one client to the next, depending on your ability to pay, instead of actual costs. NO other business would be able to get away with this crap, and they shouldn't, either!

My God

I do not want anyone under the influence of drugs to touch me. Dear God! Can you imagine someone under the influence giving you injections of some sort of serious medication? What if they get it wrong? This is completely insane.

I dont believe that was ever an issue

I honestly dont know of any healthcare worker licensed or otherwise who would ever dare touch a patient if they had narcotics in their system however some people do take meds while off duty under an MDs direction and based on NHRMC policy they arent allowed to be taking any meds on or off duty that NHRMC sees as Narcotics some of which are by no means mental altering even. I know even though I take Lyrica 2X daily due to residual neuropain issues from back surgery I wouldnt be eligible to be hired by NRHMC based on their policies which does not and never has affected me (it can initally cause issues in patients but Ive been on it 5+ months since my surgery in fact). To me the policies of NHRMC are extreme to say the least. I can understand not wanting LPN/RNs or Nursing Assitants on the floor who have oxycodone or other legitimate narcotics while on duty but what if a patient has an as needed order strictly at bedtime, some of which are narcotic in nature, they would be denied employment simply for having a legal prescription that they take occasionally OFF DUTY. This is where NHRMC was wrong absolutely. I know nurses who take xanax or restoril (which is also a benzodiazapine) at night to help sleep because Ambien or Lunesta failed to work and work nights (which night shift workers geninuely have a higher rate of insomnia) and need it to get enough sleep and proper rest, yet the NRHMC policy also affected those as well unfairly.

Though it's only my personal

Though it's only my personal opinion, I do not beleve that any person under the influence of any narcotic substance should be allowed to work in a hospital or drive or perform any activity, in any setting, where another person's life could be endangered.

For that matter, I do not believe that there is any justifiable reason for the long-term use of narcotics. Certainly, narcotics should be administered, if necessary, in certain situations, such as end-stage palliative care of the dying or for a very short period following major surgery. Otherwise, I will never understand why any person would be prescribed morphine and such for decades on end.

That said, however, each person has the right to do with his or her body as they choose. My opinion, however, is if you elect to use narcotic drugs, whether prescription or not, that are well known for their sedative/cognitive effects stay home and do not endanger others. It's a sad day when the ADA is being used to protect the rights of drug users. What next?

Long term use of narcotics

Im curious as to how long you consider too long for somebody to be on narcotics. I ask because I was on narcotics for well over a year not by choice but because of severe pain related to disc rupture as well as stenosis of the spinal canal due to spondylthesis (where the vertebrae slip against each other pinch nerves and can cause permenant damage including paralysis if it persists). Now heres where the problem came. Due to BCBS of NC repeatedly fighting against what my neurosurgeons diagnosis and that fusion surgery was the only option to decompress due to disc rupture and then the slippage I was in significant pain to the point I was on 15mg of Oxycodone 1-2pills every 4-6hrs as needed (I had been on high end percocet but due to the tylenol in the percocets I had to be taken off related to elevated liver enzymes). So it took until this past April (started in Feb 2011) to finally get the cheap insurance idiots who had such people as a Family Practice MD reviewing my case (how the hell a GP is qualified to determine the appropriateness of spinal surgery is beyond me) I was only then finally able to get the proper surgery done.. There were times my pain was so bad prior to surgery I had to go to the ER to get stronger IV pain meds to get my pain to a tolerable level due to severe exacerbations. The assumption that all people on narcotics chose to take them to "get high" or what not is very unfair assumption by someone Im guessing has little knowledge of pain control or medical knowledge in general. There is admittedly issues with Rx Drug Abuse but not every single person being treated for chronic pain has a choice and maybe just maybe the problem isnt the person but being left out in the cold by some paper pushing putz in an office building.

Yes, but

Yes, but hopefully you weren't working in a hospital, treating other vulnerable patients WHILE you were in such pain, or on such meds. THAT is the basis of this article, not whether the people on meds are good or bad people.

You obviously haven't had

You obviously haven't had any condition that caused you long term chronic pain.

I hope you never experience that in your lifetime. But you need to realize that there are conditions that you aren't aware of.

Geez...I am willing to bet

Geez...I am willing to bet that you do not suffer from any conditions that cause you chronic, severe pain? Like, oh I don't know, let's say maybe having 8 ruptured discs that all impinge on your spinal cord, but maybe you are too young to have surgery to repair it. Maybe you even have tried all measures like physical therapy, exercise, weight loss, epidural shots, TENS unit, etc?

This is my reality. I recently weaned myself off all narcotic medications, but for years I took morphine and other narcotics daily. I was employed, a mother, a church goer, a functioning member of society.

Without these meds, my quality of life has declined pretty drastically but I needed to take a break for a while. While on these meds, I became used to their effects and developed a tolerance which enabled me to go about my daily business.

Anyway, I am not entirely sure how I feel about the NHRMC issue, but I feel your post is judgmental and short sighted for sure.

LAWYERS!

This is Outrageous! What is wrong with this hospital?? Just cause someone takes Morphine should not keep them out of the operating room! Heck the patient is taking it, WHATS THE BIG DEAL!

Next they are going to say if you take narcotics you cant drive 18 wheelers or pilot a plane!

THATS NOT FAIR! I WANT PAYMENT!

I think you need educating

I think you need educating more than anything else.

Can't you detect sarcasm

Can't you detect sarcasm when you hear/read it? Jeez. Hope you don't work @ the hospital. Anyhow, not allowing those on drugs, prescription or otherwise to care for patients shows good judgement. I would like to see NHRMC appeal this, because it is totally outrageous. I suppose, next, blind persons who applied for school bus driving jobs will ask for compensation, as will crippled firefighter applicants and deaf police officer aps. Common sense once again needs to prevail.

may not be sarcasm

You know, as frightening as it sounds, I have encounter people with the mentality of 'nothing wrong with drug use' and I can see them writing that post.

I sincerely hope it was

I sincerely hope it was sarcasm. It is even more frightening that druggies, either on illegal or prescription meds are tending to patients while their minds are in a hazy world. I can't see any common sense or good judgment in allowing this to happen. NHRMC is clearly correct in trying to prevent this. I was under the impression that our society was trying to get away from such as this, then our so-called government, whose job it is to protect us, says it is ok. Just does not compute. I wonder if patients will have the opportunity to ask that NHRMC staff be drug tested before treating them?