SANTA MONICA (CNS) - A former nurse for the Specialty Surgical Center of Beverly Hills is suing her ex-employer, alleging she was wrongfully fired for protesting cost-cutting at the expense of care for patients, including one celebrity who threatened to leave because of a botched IV insertion.
Vita Olivo's Santa Monica Superior Court lawsuit allegations include wrongful termination, retaliation, age discrimination, defamation, false light invasion of privacy and failure to provide meal and rest break periods.
``The facilities are well known in the community and are frequented by numerous famous and wealthy patients,'' the suit states.
The 56-year-old Olivo seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit brought April 4. A representative for the Specialty Surgical Center did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Olivo, a nurse for more than 30 years, was hired by the Specialty Surgical Center in April 2012 and primarily worked in the ophthalmology and surgical departments, the suit states. Her skills were so valued that she was often called upon to assist doctors and nurses in areas outside those to which she was assigned, according to her suit.
However, Olivo became alarmed at the center's alleged hiring of ``substandard, inexperienced and poorly trained'' nurses who could not even properly insert an IV, the suit states. To cut costs and increase profits, the facility hired new graduates with no hospital experience and little to no training at cheaper hourly rates, the suit alleges.
The center also consistently understaffed its surgical facility, increasing the burden on those who worked there and endangering patients, the suit further alleges.
In 2019, the Specialty Surgical Center hired a new administrator who was expected to save money ``at the cost of patient care and legal requirements,'' the suit states.
``Despite having no medical background, (the administrator) made decisions affecting medical treatment, with predictably disastrous results for patients and employees,'' the suit states.
The administrator was unfriendly to Olivo because of the plaintiff's higher pay and age compared to the compensation of younger, less experienced nurses, the suit states.
Many of the facility's nurses were unable to properly start IVs, sometimes sticking a patient two or three times unsuccessfully, before Olivo was called to do it properly and sometimes doing as many as 45 in a day, the suit states.
Even celebrity patients were not immune from the alleged substandard care, according to the suit, which states that after being unsuccessfully stuck three times with missed IVs, one famous patient threatened to leave the facility.
``Ms. Olivo was quickly called in to start the IV and successfully did so on the first attempt, allowing this famous patient to undergo his scheduled procedure,'' according to the suit, which does not identify the well- known patient.
A patient undergoing surgery had mesh inserted on the person's right side when it should have been placed on the left side, the suit states. When the ``hurried doctor'' realized his mistake while in his car and headed to Las Vegas, he instructed the staff to ``keep the patient under,'' increasing the amount of time the patient was under anesthesia, the suit states.
Olivo believes that Specialty Surgical Center did not notify the patient of the error, falsified documentation of what happened and illegally covered it up, the suit states.
``This was the type of dangerously sloppy conduct that Ms. Olivo tried to prevent and correct,'' the suit states.
The significant staffing shortages prevented nurses from taking their meal and rest breaks because there was no one to fill in for them when they were temporarily off duty, the suit states.
``This was not only a violation of legal requirements, but also created further safety issues because the staff was exhausted and deprived of adequate time to eat, drink water and take brief breaks,'' the suit states. ``Both employees and patients were seriously endangered.''
In response to Olivo's vocal protests of the facility's allegedly unsafe and illegal practices, as well as her age and related salary, the administrator ``sought a reason to eliminate Ms. Olivo from their employment,'' the suit states.
First, Olivo was transferred from the pre-op unit to the recovery unit, but she was moved back because of the lack of competent staff to do the work she had done in pre-op, the suit states.
When a patient feel in April 2021 while Olivo was on duty, management ``seized upon this incident to falsely accuse Ms. Olivo of negligence, falsely accuse her of falsifying paperwork, falsely blame Ms. Olivo for the patient's fall without properly investigating the incident and to terminate her employment,'' the suit states.
In reality, Olivo was not negligent in her care of the patient who fell, and fully complied with proper procedures. The patient was not a fall risk, had undergone a non-surgical procedure and had asked for privacy while using the restroom, the suit states.
After the patient fell, the Specialty Surgical Center accused Olivo of not doing an assessment of the patient, according to her suit, which further states that the plaintiff actually collaborated with two doctors in evaluating the patient before she was released.
The real reasons for Olivo's firing were her complaints of illegal and unsafe practices and because she was older and paid more than younger nurses, the suit states.
``In fact, Specialty Surgical Center waited until Ms. Olivo had completed another work shift before terminating her,'' the suit alleges. ``If Ms. Olivo were truly a threat to patient safety, she would not have been permitted to work another full shift before her termination.''