Claiming hospital officials tried to have her involuntarily committed after she raised ethics and legality concerns, a former human resources worker is suing a hospital in Newcastle, Wyoming.
Amanda McDade, of Upton, filed a lawsuit against Weston County Health Services on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming. She accuses the hospital of retaliating for voicing her concerns, of threatening to have her involuntarily committed as if she were mentally ill, of causing her anxiety, and of forcing her to resign.
“The Defendant is a governmental entity under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act. Certainly, the government cannot threaten to strip us of our civil liberty and freedom when their illegality and ethics are called out through the proper process,” says McDade’s lawsuit. “To silence the voice of those who speak against you and threaten to place them in an involuntary mental health hold, as a government employer, is nothing that should ever occur in the free United States of America.”
Weston County Health Services did not respond to a request by Cowboy State Daily for comment by publication time Monday.
McDade’s complaint says she worked for Weston County Health Services from June 11, 2019, until Oct. 14, 2021.
She became a human resources generalist soon after being hired and had access to employee records, payroll, timekeeping and operation documentation as part of her role, the complaint says.
“During the course of her employment, the Plaintiff raised concerns of money mismanagement, illegality, and ethics through the proper chain of command,” says the document. “Instead of this being remedied, Plaintiff was retaliated against and subjected to a hostile work environment.”
The complaint says McDade reported as a whistleblower, through the proper process, going to the organization’s then-president of the Board of Trustees.
The hospital asked McDade to change records to cover up its errors, the complaint alleges.
McDade found the request “unethical and likely illegal” and reportedly did not comply.
The complaint alleges a turn of events it calls “malevolent” where McDade faced a Title 25 mental health hold, which is Wyoming’s way of involuntarily committing a dangerous and mentally ill person.
A nurse called McDade at work Oct. 14, 2021, to arrange a meeting for McDade’s own treating physician, Dr. Sara Thurgood, to discuss medication and concerns with medication, the complaint says.
McDade was puzzled, as she hadn’t made an appointment and had no medication concerns, the complaint says.
When she hung up the phone her chest tightened and her breath grew short, but she tried to refocus on her work, says the document.
'They're So Concerned'
The complaint says that a couple hours later, Dr. Thurgood walked into McDade’s office.
McDade said there must be a mix-up: she didn’t have an appointment to sort out.
“Well, that is not what (the nurse) told me,” Thurgood reportedly said. “Do you mind if I close these doors in your office so that we can have a confidential conversation with me here as your doctor first and foremost?”
Thurgood then closed McDade’s supervisor’s door, though he wasn’t there, and McDade’s own office door, the complaint says.
McDade’s lawsuit says she pushed the “record” button on her phone.
Thurgood discussed facts about McDade’s earlier medical treatments, then said, “Here’s the thing, they’re so concerned for you,” the affidavit says.
“No they’re not,” McDade said. “They’re so concerned in saving their own (expletive) right now.”
“They’re probably both, because they’ve got an employee they’re concerned about with what you’ve taken to the board,” Thurgood allegedly said. “I don’t know the details, but they’re concerned about that, but then they’re also concerned with just some of the things that you’ve said and things that would suggest an almost manic.”
McDade answered, “I’m not manic in any way shape or form,” the complaint relates.
Thurgood reportedly agreed that McDade didn’t look manic just then. “My biggest concern here is that they are talking about potentially, uhh, I hope that it’s OK I’m telling you this, they’re talking about potentially involuntary commitment,” the doctor allegedly said, adding that she couldn’t commit McDade herself because it would be a conflict of interest since McDade was both her patient and an employee.
‘Blindsided In Horror’
McDade was “blindsided in horror,” says the complaint.
Thurgood went on, saying she’d had little involvement with any Title 25 proceedings, except doing one during her residency and another where a person was threatening others with a knife, the document claims.
“I don’t really know what to do,” Thurgood said, the complaint alleges. “My thought initially was to keep, to try to keep them from, I don’t know what it’s going to take to keep them from resorting to commitment you know what I mean.”
The document says that Dr. Thurgood then mentioned adjusting McDade’s medication and that it was not a position she’d ever been put in before.
McDade told Thurgood she was in terror and shock, then she left the hospital.
“She legitimately expected the cops to meet her at the door with a straight jacket to see their malicious plan through,” the complaint says. But that did not happen.
That day she emailed her resignation and fought back anxiety for days afterward, the complaint says.
McDade is not suing Thurgood – only the hospital.
‘I Was A Pawn’
Thurgood in her own Monday interview told Cowboy State Daily that she was a pawn in all this, and she didn’t know what money mismanagement concerns McDade had raised against the hospital.
For Thurgood, it started when a nurse and a hospital administrator asked her to check on McDade; they claimed to be concerned for McDade’s mental health in light of recent public statements McDade had made.
Thurgood tried to listen to their concerns and she agreed to visit with McDade, but she didn’t feel right about their request that she try to have McDade involuntarily committed, and she refused to do that, the doctor said.
Thurgood chose to tell McDade about the hospital leaders’ talk of involuntary commitment.
“I felt extremely uncomfortable by what I was asked to do. They were wanting me to declare her either a danger to herself or other people – that’s what you have to do to Title 25 someone,” said Thurgood. “I did not see that in her.”
Thurgood clarified that she was able to discuss elements of the incident McDade has already confirmed publicly in the lawsuit complaint, but could not divulge more than those details under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Though people had raised concerns about McDade’s behavior or reported changes in behavior, Thurgood said she didn’t know McDade well enough to make such a judgment call herself, and wasn’t comfortable evaluating McDade for a Title 25 hold because the two women shared an employer and because she’s not a psychiatrist.
Even if McDade’s behavior had been “a little off” according to her peers at the hospital, this was Newcastle, Wyoming, in the middle of a pandemic: “Everybody was a little off," Thurgood said.
Thurgood told Cowboy State Daily she was open to discuss this incident because she hoped to be helpful to McDade.
“I want to be as objective as I can in order to help Amanda,” Thurgood said.
Reflecting on the 2021 meeting, she said, “As a physician, I’ve never been asked to do something so odd.”
McDade is asking for the federal court to enter judgment in her favor, including:
Declaratory and injunctive relief.
Economic damages including back pay, front pay and lost benefits to be established at a trial.
Compensatory damages for future losses, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience and mental anguish.
Punitive damages to be determined at trial, to punish the hospital.
Exemplary damages to make an example of the hospital, also to be determined at trial.
Pre-judgment and post-judgment interest at the highest lawful rate.
A tax offset.
Attorney’s fees and costs.
Any other relief justice requires.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.