Wednesday, August 11, 1999

Fired lab technician sues
hospital after HIV disclosure

By Anthony Sommer


LIHUE -- A lab technician who routinely drew blood samples from patients has sued Wilcox Memorial Hospital for firing him, allegedly after it was learned he tested positive for the HIV virus.

The technician, who filed the lawsuit Monday in Circuit Court under the name John Doe, says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention records show no case in which a patient ever has contracted the HIV virus from an infected lab worker.

His attorney claims there was "no rational basis" for firing his client.

On May 7, the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission issued the technician a right-to-sue letter, a requirement for filing a discrimination lawsuit. Right-to-sue letters are issued only after an investigation has determined it is likely a person's rights were violated.

According to court documents, the technician started work on April 13, 1998. On May 1, 1998, he was summoned to a meeting with Teri Gomez of the hospital's Human Resources Department and Mahala Church, the hospital's director of quality control.

He was directed to either confirm he was HIV positive or be fired. He said he had tested positive and immediately was terminated.

His Honolulu attorney, Kirk Cashmere, said the hospital failed to conduct any assessment to determine whether the technician was a danger to patients. He said the hospital did not consider the use of retractable syringes or other "safe needles" that could have been used to reduce the possibility of exposure.

The lawsuit claims the hospital violated the Hawaii Fair Employment Practices Act, illegally coerced the technician into disclosing his HIV-positive status and illegally shared the confidential knowledge among physicians and staff without his consent.

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