Ex-CNO wins $1M lawsuit against Prime hospital: Dr. Prem Reddy at the center of controversy

The former CNO of Encino (Calif.) Hospital Medical Center, part of Ontario, Calif.-based Prime Healthcare Services' hospital network, has been awarded $1 million in a wrongful termination lawsuit after a Los Angeles jury concluded she was laid off in 2012 because she complained about a sex scandal, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

The allegations
The controversy that led to the lawsuit began in 2011, when the former CNO, Vilma Dinham, complained to the hospital's CMO, Muhammad Anwar, MD, about comments made by the hospital's director of respiratory services. Ms. Dinham claims Hershee Cajigal, the director or respiratory services, boasted to co-workers about having an affair with Dr. Anwar.

When Ms. Cajigal's comments didn't stop, Ms. Dinham and other nurses took their concerns to Robert C. Bills, the hospital's CEO. During the trial, Mr. Bills said he spoke with Ms. Cajigal about the comments and her "totally inappropriate" work attire, according to the report.

Mr. Bills was allegedly scolded by Dr. Anwar for confronting Ms. Cajigal. Dr. Anwar also repeatedly advised him to fire Ms. Dinham.

Mr. Bills said he decided not to fire Ms. Dinham, even after Dr. Anwar allegedly described the "very close" personal relationship he had with Prime Healthcare Chairman, President and CEO Prem Reddy, MD. Mr. Bills testified that Dr. Anwar said he and Dr. Reddy had engaged in what Mr. Bills referred to as "womanizing," according to the report. Both Dr. Reddy and Dr. Anwar have denied those allegations.

The issue makes its way to the top
Mr. Bills eventually brought the issue of the alleged relationship between Dr. Anwar and Ms. Cajigal to the attention of Prime Healthcare, and instead of dealing with the problem, the company promoted Ms. Cajigal to corporate director of respiratory services at all of its hospitals. Shortly thereafter, in the summer of 2012, Mr. Bills was fired. In September of that year, Prime terminated Ms. Dinham.

Although Ms. Dinham and her attorney claim Prime retaliated against Ms. Dinham for reporting sexual harassment by terminating her, Prime says that isn't the case. The hospital network maintains Ms. Dinham was let go because of poor performance. Mr. Bill's testimony disputes that claim. He described Ms. Dinham as "without question…the best chief nursing officer I've ever worked with in my career."

Prime told the Los Angeles Times it intends to file an appeal in the case.

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