Whidbey General staff rallies around embattled nurse

Retired nurse Barbara Read recites a recent letter to the editor at Monday’s hospital board meeting. In her letter

Nearly 200 Whidbey General Hospital staff are reportedly wearing purple wrist bands inscribed with the letters “LG” in support of their chief nursing officer who was found not guilty of assault last week.

Around 200 of the wrist bands had been passed out during the trial of Linda Gipson this past Thursday and Friday, Chief of Staff Brenden Hansen told the hospital’s board of directors at their regular Monday morning meeting.

“This is a way to show visible support,” said Hansen, wearing a band himself. “The trial has been divisive in some ways, but in other ways it brings us together. We need to remember why we’re here.”

Moving forward, Hansen said he hoped to bring the hospital staff together as a “family.”

The 7 a.m. gathering had an unusually large crowd of more than 40 people.

Registered Nurse Tasha Malone spoke during public comment in support of Gipson, saying that the CNO was “not fairly represented” and that she has “very high standards.”

“We support Linda Gipson,” Malone said. “We support our CNO.”

Retired nurse Barbara Read read her letter to the editor which was recently published in the South Whidbey Record.

“She is a gift to our community; a true nurse who not only has compassion and love for the service, but who has gathered throughout her life the education, experience, and courage to make the best leader for our hospital,” Read said. “I am thankful she chose to come to our hospital as chief nursing officer, and am grateful for every day she has served this community.”

Long-time Whidbey General Hospital watchdog Rob Born said that while he supported Gipson, it was “just the beginning of that story” which was a “case of prosecutorial overreach on a vast scale.”

“This was a travesty of injustice,” Born said. “It was an ordeal that should never have taken place. Ms. Gipson may never get her reputation back but we can let everyone know what an honorable person she is.”

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said later Monday that he pursued the case because “a judge found that there was probable cause to believe a crime had been committed when we charged it.”

In addition, a judge later passed on a chance to dismiss the case, Banks said.

“I believe that I had a duty to bring the charge,” Banks said. “We sometimes have to take difficult cases, and let the jury decide.”

Brian Giles, who said his wife has worked at the hospital for 28 years, told hospital board members Monday morning that he wanted to speak for those nurses who lost their jobs as a result of Gipson’s vindication.

“The cost was the reputation of a lot of good employees,” Giles said of the nurses who testified against Gipson. “There was a price. Three or four good nurses paid the price for what they thought.”

Robert Wagner, a doctor not affiliated with Whidbey General, said the hospital should use the Gipson trial and the arrival of the new CEO Geri Forbes next week as a chance to start fresh with the community.

“I represent a group of citizens that are very concerned with what is happening in Island County,” Wagner said. “We need more transparency from this hospital. Now is the time for change and taking all this into consideration so that we, the public, are satisfied with how you’re running this hospital.”

Board President Anne Tarrant thanked Wagner for his comments saying she “would rather talk to someone than listen to rumors.”

The board also bade farewell to outgoing CEO Tom Tomasino with a few tears and more than half of the room stood to give him a standing ovation.

Monday was his final meeting at Whidbey General Hospital as CEO.

LaJolla Peters, human resources manager at Whidbey General, gave a short speech thanking Tomasino for his work at the hospital and each board member took a moment to thank him as well.

Tomasino said that he never intended to stay long-term with the hospital but he “fell in love with this organization and the people who work here.”