Winkler County Nurse Whistleblower History
In Winkler County, a small West Texas county adjacent to the southeast corner of New Mexico, two registered nurses faced criminal indictments because they advocated for their patients. The felony charge: misuse of official information. Under the Texas Penal Code, misuse of information is a third-degree felony that carries the potential for two-to-ten years’ imprisonment and upwards of a $10,000 fine. It’s a pretty serious situation.
Texas Nurses Association learned of the accusation that the two nurses – both TNA members – reported a physician at their hospital – a county hospital – to the Texas Medical Board because they had concern that the physician’s practice was below the acceptable standard of care. The nurses were soon thereafter terminated by their hospital employer. And, the physician had also filed a harassment complaint against them with the county sheriff’s department. The criminal charges were because the nurses “sent patient files to the state medical board in an attempt to harm one of the hospital’s physicians.”
Because the two nurses, Vicki Galle, RN and Anne Mitchell, RN, worked for a county hospital – and included medical record numbers of the patients in their report (actually, no patient names were disclosed) – they were charged with the felony crime of misuse of official information. Even though the Texas Medical Board stated in a letter to Winkler County attorneys that disclosing of patient identification numbers is allowed under state and federal law, the nurses still had to defend themselves against criminal charge. And, they lost their jobs.
Following is a list of various news announcements and historical documentation.
Criminal Court Case History
Civil Court Case History