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Bergen hospital nurse claims retaliation after reporting abuse

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Mary Louise Doyle, a nurse fired from the Bergen Regional Medical Center, has filed suit against her former employer, claiming she lost her job in retaliation for exposing improper practices at the hospital.

Doyle had worked there for nearly 20 years, rising from a contract nurse to a staff position and ultimately to manager.

The medical center claims Doyle was fired “for legitimate reasons unrelated to her claims of retaliation.” 

Despite its defense, a Bergen County judge refused to dismiss the charges in August 2010, and Doyle’s lawsuit is almost certainly headed for trial.

In her suit, Doyle painted a grim picture, alleging that institutionalized patients experienced psychological, physical and sexual abuse. She claims she regularly spoke with management about the abuse.

In court papers, Doyle reported one patient’s testimony that a hospital employee threatened to break Doyle’s neck if she reported him to authorities.

According to Doyle, patient abuse is a longstanding problem. She says in 2002 she witnessed an assistant sexually assault a patient. She testified that her warnings went unheeded when she reported the incident to management.

As Doyle’s advocacy for patients increased, she says the hospital responded by insisting she undergo psychiatric counseling.

Eventually, Doyle went outside the chain of command and complained to several elected officials. Consequently, a state health inspector visited the hospital and cited it for “issues related to suicide prevention, housekeeping, and failure to implement their policy related to treatment planning.”

The final straw came when Doyle allegedly witnessed an employee exposing himself to female patients and touching one on the breast. She claims she feared the report would be “misplaced” and gave a copy to a trusted co-worker.

Ultimately, the hospital terminated Doyle for “a pattern of disregard for hospital policy and procedures and inappropriate behavior.”

Doyle’s lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.

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