Dr. Gil Mileikowsky first realized something was wrong when a lawyer approached him to inform him that a patient’s fallopian tubes had been removed without consent. The West Hill Hospital was operated by the Tenet Healthcare at the time. In 2000, he began reporting incidents of negligence carried by his coworkers and drew attention to the lack of cooperation from the hospital to investigate errors. Dr. Mileikowsky experienced constant retaliation and was eventually completely stripped of all clinical privileges. He subsequently filed suit against the HCA healthcare company and Tenet Healthcare in response their retaliatory actions.
The instant case raises the question of whether the presiding hearing officer in a medical peer review proceeding has the power to terminate a hearing as sanction for a party’s failure to cooperate, or whether the authority to make that decision must come from the hearing committee.
In 2008, 20 public interest groups, including the National Whistleblower Center (“NWC”), joined together and filed an amicus brief in support of Dr. Mileikowsky. These briefs argued that whistleblower protections should be applied to protect individuals who have disclosed information and risk facing retaliatory action. Whistleblowers are a key resource when it comes to protecting the U.S government from fraud. If the courts continue to persecute whistleblowers for their sacrifices, future whistleblowers will be reluctant to come forward and help uncover internal corruption.
In 2009, Dr. Mileikowsky’s appeal to the Supreme Court of California was decided. In a victory for whistleblowers, the Supreme Court did not concur with the actions of West Hill Hospital. As stated in the Supreme Court of California decision, “it follows that the hearing officer’s order dismissing the proceedings was unauthorized. And, as decisions relating to clinical privileges are the province of a hospital’s peer review bodies and not its governing body, West Hills’s governing board similarly lacked the authority to ratify the order of dismissal,” thus, affirming the judgement of the Court of Appeal.
The National Whistleblower Center (NWC) often submits amici curiae briefs in support of whistleblowers. To learn more about NWC involvement in other cases, click here. To find out more about what NWC is doing to protect whistleblower rights, click here.