The decision by the Department of Health and Senior Services to suspend a social worker who wrote a letter protesting the closing of Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital is a troubling move. It’s bound to put a chill into anyone who works for the state and wants to point out a problem with administration policy. Susan Hollander Whitman, a consultant and geriatric-case manager for the Office of the Public Guardian, has been suspended from her duties while officials investigate whether she "appropriately or inappropriately represented herself as a member of the office."
In her letter last month to state Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Warren), Hollander Whitman said closing the hospital would disrupt the lives of the 19 elderly and incapacitated patients for whom she has guardianship. She wrote that she has been visiting the institution for six years "working closely with staff and patients to assure the best care for these adults."
"I can not in good conscience advocate for them to be moved around and have their stability disrupted," she wrote.
Doherty, whose district includes the hospital and who opposes closing it, read a portion of the letter at a budget committee hearing last week. That prompted the Department of Health and Senior Services to relieve Hollander Whitman of her duties pending a probe. Department spokeswoman Donna Leusner says Hollander Whitman’s patients have been temporarily reassigned.
In her letter, it seems clear Hollander Whitman was expressing her own view and concern as an advocate for her patients, as any good guardian should. She did not use official letterhead, and she identified herself as a guardian representative, not as someone speaking on behalf of the agency.
Department officials have not said what policy the social worker might have breached. In other words, they can’t say for sure if she even did anything wrong. That makes taking away her job — and the patients she was speaking up for — all the more unfortunate.
Full Article and Source:
Patient Advocate Suspended for Speaking Up