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Albany VA nurse alleges safety concerns

ALBANY A Veterans Affairs nurse claims she witnessed a patient being improperly restrained. When she filed a complaint, she said she was reprimanded.

Valerie Riviello worked as the nurse manager at the psychiatric unit at the time. She said a female patient began arguing with staff and was restrained. Riviello said hours later she and other staff members tried to convince the doctor the patient was no longer a threat and restraints were no longer needed.

"We kept advocating for it all morning and finally she was completely wet and in a lot of pain. It had been seven hours, so I called my boss and I told him we need to get her out, said Riviello.

Riviello said her boss initially backed the decision, but later disciplined her when the doctor complained.

"Within a day or two of that I was relieved of my duties. They basically didn't want nurses to go against doctor's orders, said Riviello.

Riviello said she was reassigned to a desk job and had her pay cut. She later got back her title and wages with the help of an attorney, but said she continued to face disciplinary action.

She then filed two complaints with the Office of Special Counsel alleging patient abuse and a whistleblower complaint. The filing put disciplinary action on hold until the investigation is complete.

"If nurses can't speak out and you're in the hospital and they fear they're going to lose their job that's really scary, said Riviello. Thats a scary situation."

The hospital declined to answer specific questions, citing the ongoing investigation, but issued the following statement:

Unfortunately, we cannot comment on personnel matters, especially as it is currently under investigation.  However, we take any allegations involving patient care very seriously.  We have an open environment for employees, one where we encourage them to come forward and utilize the venues available to raise issues and concerns.  Upon invoking their right to go to the Office of Special Counsel, we feel it is important that the process be fully pursued and the claim reviewed.  The Albany Stratton VA Medical Center values all internal and external reviews as opportunities to affirm the quality of our medical care and practices and to identify opportunities for improvement.