Both women had been longtime employees of the 15-bed county-run Winkler County Memorial Hospital. They sent an anonymous letter to the medical board that listed numbers specifying patient records they said supported their claims that a physician on staff at the hospital was endangering patients. After the sheriff uncovered the identities of the nurses, each was charged with a felony count of misusing government information. The charge against Galle was dropped on the eve of the trial in February, and a jury acquitted Mitchell.
The nurses' civil lawsuit alleged violations of whistle-blower protections and their constitutional rights to free speech and due process.
The physician whose care they questioned, Rolando Arafiles, now faces a complaint levied in June by the Texas Medical Board. In addition to questioning the care he provided in nine specific cases, the board alleges witness intimidation, contending that he enlisted the sheriff, a patient and personal friend, to pursue the source of the complaint after he was notified the board was investigating the nurses' unsigned letter.
The matter has been referred to mediation, and a trial will be held before an administrative law judge if mediation fails to yield an agreement, a spokeswoman for the medical board said.