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California ASC whistle-blowers file wrongful termination suit: 5 things to know

Two former employees filed a lawsuit against Santa Barbara (Calif.) Surgery Center alleging they were wrongfully terminated after reporting noncompliance with medical regulations, failure to maintain sterile techniques and unlawful opiate control, according to Edhat Santa Barbara. The pair also alleged age discrimination in their firing and made sexual misconduct claims.

Here are five things to know:

1. Earlier this year, the center's clinical manager, Annette Eddy, and healthcare administrator and infection preventionist, Laura Dahlin, were fired after reporting several instances of noncompliance. The pair reported observing staff members who did not adhere to sterile techniques and an employee who accessed opioids for possible inappropriate use.

2. Both employees contacted the ASC's medical director, Gary Anderson, MD, an anesthesiologist at the center, to report their complaints, but were allegedly told to ignore them because "doctors would take their business elsewhere if required to maintain sterile environments," according to the report.

3. The pair also complained that physicians forced nurses to forge their signatures, violated anti-kickback, discriminated based on age — Ms. Dahlin and Ms. Eddy were the oldest staff members and faced comments about their ages — and mismanaged a sexual misconduct claim between a patient and physician. They also noted a lack of disclosed justification for Dr. Anderson's stipend.

4. Ms. Dahlin claims she underwent an unscheduled performance review after urging Dr. Anderson to report the sexual misconduct claim. The review was negative, and she disputed the review with the board, providing evidence to support her claim. Soon after, she was fired, according to the report.

5. Santa Barbara Surgery Center, which provides gastroenterology, orthopedics, ENT, pain management, ophthalmology and spine surgery, did not comment on the suit in the report. NewsChannel 3 reported a spokeswoman for the center "look[s] forward to clearing the allegations."

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