Former hospital director accuses WVU Medicine affiliate of compromising patient safety

A former director at West Virginia University Medicine affiliate Princeton Community Hospital is accusing the healthcare institution of violating patient safety and age discrimination laws.

Mark Mustard, a former director of cardiopulmonary and therapy services at the hospital, filed a lawsuit April 11 in West Virginia's Mercer County.

In the lawsuit, Mr. Mustard claims he was fired after raising concerns about the quality of care provided to patients suffering from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses, according to an April 18 news release from Bailess Law Firm, which represents him.

Mr. Mustard's lawsuit alleges that his firing — less than one month after he made patient safety complaints to the hospital's executive team, its chief nursing officer, and hospital supervisor Albert Boland — was unlawful retaliation in violation of the West Virginia Patient Safety Act and age discrimination in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act.

The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Mustard raised concerns focused on staffing and patient safety starting in 2020, toward the beginning of the pandemic. 

He continued to raise concerns, including a report to the hospital's executive team in August 2021 stating that more staff was needed to meet patients' needs because night shift respiratory staff was exhausted and overworked, according to the lawsuit.

Mr. Mustard's attorneys said the lawsuit also alleges Mr. Mustard raised concerns in August 2021 to Mr. Boland and the hospital's chief nursing officer to report that inadequate staffing was preventing patients from receiving the necessary amount of aerosol treatments. 

These concerns, along with issues he continued to raise in September, were not resolved, and Mr. Mustard was fired Sept. 23 with "no warning that his job was in jeopardy," according to the lawsuit. 

At the time of the termination, Mr. Mustard was 63 years old, and the lawsuit alleges the hospital chose to terminate him "while retaining substantially younger, less qualified and less tenured employees in positions [Mr. Mustard] was qualified to perform." 

WVU Medicine told Becker's the health system does not comment on pending litigation. 

Mr. Mustard seeks compensatory damages, including lost pay and benefits, as well as punitive damages.

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