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As if it isn’t enough that health care costs are draining patients’ wallets dry, last week, in a violation of hospital protocol, a Dean Health System manager at Dean West Clinic in Wisconsin called out a nurse in the middle of assisting in surgery—in order to lay her off.

The abrupt removal, which spokesman Paul Pitas said posed no danger to the patient, came after the Madison-based health care provider announced Wednesday that it planned to “immediately” lay off 90 employees.

Pitas, director of corporate communications, labeled the action “clearly … an error in judgment on the part of the manager conducting the layoff.” He declined to name the manager but described her as “an otherwise good employee with more than 30 years of nursing experience who made a regrettable decision.” -Dee J. Hall, Wisconsin State Journal

According to spokesmen, the procedure interrupted for the layoff was not serious, and the patient is currently “doing fine.” The type of procedure it was, however, is being kept secret for now, as are the names of everyone involved in the incident.

The abrupt layoff caused there to be a period of time during surgery in which there was no RN present—a breach of Dean Health procedure. Had an injury to the patient resulted from this “error in judgment,” the hospital would be facing some serious malpractice charges. Even without injury, the patient has a right to be furious. Every surgery, no matter how minor, carries a risk of complications, and removing key health care personnel from the operating room in the middle of one is not just bad judgment; it’s medical malpractice.

Dean is planning to investigate the circumstances of the error, but refuses to discuss possible outcomes. I suppose we can be grateful they didn’t decide to “immediately” lay off their emergency room staff as well.

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