Article published Mar 22, 2006

Ex-nursing chief sues White Oak Manor
RACHEL E. LEONARD, Staff Writer

A former nursing director at a Spartanburg long-term care facility is seeking court relief on claims she was fired for refusing to help cover up a medication error that sent a resident into a brain-damaging insulin shock.

Management at White Oak Manor–Spartanburg warned Carol Hodge not to disclose the outcome of her investigation into the medication mistake to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control or to the resident’s family, according to Hodge’s lawsuit, filed this month in Spartanburg County Court of Common Pleas. Hodge’s lawyer, Donald Coggins of Spartanburg, said Hodge’s superiors began finding problems with her work when she ignored those directives.

"She was told by her superiors because it was a medication error, it didn’t have to be reported and they would rather she didn’t," he said.

Those allegations are false, said Doug Cecil, president

of White Oak Management Inc. Hodge mistreated co-workers, and the medication error was investigated and DHEC was notified, he said.

"Nothing was covered up," Cecil said. "Everything was reported."

Hodge began working at White Oak Manor, 295 Pearl St., in 1998 and was promoted to director of nursing two years later. She held that position until May 2004, when she was fired, the lawsuit states.

Hodge found employment elsewhere, but she claims White Oak management made false, derogatory statements about her to prospective employers during her job search.

Cecil said Hodge first filed a complaint with the S.C. Human Affairs Commission in May 2004, alleging age discrimination and hearing loss, not retaliatory discrimination. In November 2004 that agency issued a finding of "no cause."

"I think she’s a disgruntled employee with us," Cecil said. "Why, after 22 months, has there been a change in her story?"

The medication error involved resident Pearl Sinclair, who suffered acute hypoglycemia on May 2, 2004, when she was mistakenly injected with insulin she did not need. She died in 2005.

In November, a Spartanburg County jury ordered White Oak to pay Sinclair’s family more than $1 million in damages.

Hodge is suing on claims including wrongful termination and slander. She is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Rachel E. Leonard can be reached at 562-7230, or

rachel.leonard@shj.com.

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