CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — A man who says he alerted authorities to a string of suspicious patient deaths at a West Virginia veterans hospital has filed a lawsuit claiming he was wrongfully suspended because of his actions, a newspaper reported.
Gregory Bee said he was suspended from the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg in 2019 after he attempted to make the deaths public by contacting various news outlets, the office of the inspector general and the office of Rep. David McKinley, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported Tuesday, citing the lawsuit.
In an email response to a request for comment, medical center spokesman Wesley R. Walls told The Associated Press that hospital officials “would be happy to respond to these allegations in detail, but in order to do so we need the individual’s written consent to discuss their complete work history.”
Walls added that while the “VA encourages employees to identify problems and will not tolerate any efforts to retaliate against those individuals,” he added that “identifying as a whistleblower doesn’t automatically give credence to someone’s claims nor does it shield them from accountability when they have failed to uphold VA’s values.”
Former nursing assistant Reta Mays pleaded guilty in July to killing seven military veterans in 2017 and 2018 by injecting them with insulin when it was not prescribed.
The lawsuit says Bee worked in patient care services at the Clarksburg facility from 2015 until April 2019. It says he was instructed in August 2018 to amend various policies regarding the security, storage and administration of insulin, as well as language concerning hypoglycemia. He learned about the deaths shortly after he received those instructions, and attempted to make them public in the fall of 2018, the lawsuit says.
In the same time period, the lawsuit says, a “false allegation of sexual harassment” was made against Bee and he was suspended for seven days for being 15 minutes late for work. In March 2019, Bee was reassigned to the laundry facility and a supervisor told Bee he was advised to “confine” him there, according to the lawsuit.
Bee objected to the transfer and filed a complaint in February 2019 with the VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, which remains pending. He was placed on administrative leave without pay on April 5, 2019, the lawsuit says. Bee alleges that he received a “de facto termination,” since he hasn’t been paid since.
Bee is seeking reinstatement to employment, back wages and compensatory damages.