In a new whistleblower lawsuit, a lead nurse says he warned management at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center of lax security in the years prior to a deadly shooting there.
Joshua Bramblett, who was charge nurse on the night shift in the hospital’s emergency room, alleges in a lawsuit filed Jan. 8 in Multnomah County Circuit Court that he “reported to management his safety concerns regarding inadequate staffing” and “disproportionate effort by [hospital] security guards” to assist him and his co-workers when they were attacked by patients.
“Nurse Bramblett is unaware of any changes made by management to remedy the situation,” the lawsuit claims.
Hospitals have always been dangerous places to work, and pandemic understaffing has only made it worse. A 2022 survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians found that 55% of ER doctors said they had been physically assaulted.
But violence at Good Sam became front-page headlines last summer after a man shot and killed 44-year-old security guard Bobby Smallwood outside the hospital’s maternity unit. Following that killing, Oregon lawmakers revived efforts to increase the criminal penalties for assaulting hospital employees.
In his legal complaint, Bramblett alleges he was fired from the hospital after coming to the defense of co-workers who were being attacked or threatened by combative patients. Hospital security staff said he used “excessive force” and abused patients, he says in his complaint.
Bramblett says he’s the victim of whistleblower discrimination and retaliation after complaining to management that the hospital wasn’t providing a safe work environment for its nursing staff. “The only response from [hospital] management was to advise Nurse Bramblett to stand back from threatening patients in case they tried to strike him,” the complaint says.
He’s asking for $810,000 in damages, but his attorney, Shanti Lewallen, says Bramblett’s chief concern is his co-workers. “He wants to make sure nurses aren’t having to take a role in securing the ER,” he said. “They need to take these concerns seriously.”
A spokesman for the hospital said he couldn’t respond directly to the lawsuit, but sent WW the following statement:
“Safety and healing are always our top priorities. While violence in the workplace is growing nationwide, this unfortunately is not a new trend in the health care industry. For years, Legacy has worked to continually bolster our safety and security for our staff and for our patients, and we are deeply committed to continue that work today, tomorrow and long into the future.”
The lawsuit describes a series of incidents in which Bramblett alleges he came to the aid of co-workers who were attacked by patients or members of the public. In one incident, in May 2022, “guards took a passive role, permitting the attacker to lunge at Nurse Bramblett and his co-worker multiple times without intervening.”
He “complained to [hospital’s] security and management that the security guards’ passive role was unnecessarily endangering staff and members of the public present in the hospital and amounted to an unsafe work environment.”
In turn, management accused him of using “excessive force” against patients and, ultimately, “patient abuse” following an incident in August 2022, when Bramblett retrieved blankets from a “combative patient” who refused care. Afraid she was going to hit him, he grabbed her arm. “Security never stepped in to assist,” the complaint alleges.
After reviewing video footage of the incident, the hospital fired Bramblett and reported the incident to the Oregon State Board of Nursing. Bramblett appealed his firing, saying he’d followed hospital policies and that the security officer who complained had “exaggerating Nurse Bramblett’s use of force.”
“I have also been the first to respond to almost every incident that has occurred while I was working because security has been called but are not always readily available in the ER,” Bramblett wrote in a letter appealing his firing. “The ER dynamics have changed over the last few years and the patient assaults have grossly increased during that time.”