BINGHAM COUNTY, Idaho - A Bingham Memorial Hospital employee says administrators instructed her to clear expired drugs out of the Medical Office Building during an audit by the Joint Commission. That's the organization that accredits and certifies health care programs.
Brandi Seal said she's going on the record because the public has a right to know if the hospital isn't up to standards. Seal said she's the community health coordinator for BMH on a part-time basis.
Seal said when the Joint Commission paid a visit in 2010, two administrators sent her running to stay in front of them and get all expired drugs out.
Seal said BMH leaders didn't think the Joint Commission would travel across the bridge to the Medical Office Building.
"They just said, 'Those are physicians' offices. They're just going to look at the hospital. They're not going to bother any of that,'" said Seal.
But they did just that. The commission's quality check website confirms a full survey between May 25 to 27, 2010. Seal said commissioners started the audit in the Idaho Physicians Clinic. When expired drug samples were found, she said, she was pulled aside.
"'You get ahead of them,'" Seal said managers told her. "'You go to every physician's office. You find anything that's expired and you get rid of it."
Seal said saying no wasn't an option. As a mom of two with a third on the way, she said she couldn't risk getting in trouble.
"I was like, 'What do you want me to do?'" said Seal. "They were like, 'Just get it out of the building.' So here I am running around pregnant, just filling bags full of stuff."
The Pocatello woman said she filled four garbage bags in total. Not knowing what else to do, she ran out to her car and threw them in the trunk, she said..
"After the fact, I was like, 'Why in the heck am I doing this? You know ... I don't have a prescription for these meds and now these meds are in my car. And I'm going to be in trouble if I get pulled over,'" said Seal.
Former employee Ellen Tarpley said she was passing through the building when Seal came up to her.
"She felt that she was going to get in trouble," said Tarpley. "And if she didn't do it that she would probably lose her job."
Seal's former supervisor, Bonnie Schuelke, who resigned a few months earlier, also remembered getting a phone call.
"She was very upset, she was very scared," said Schuelke. "I felt very badly for her."
Seal said she threw away everything she could at home, then put the rest in a biohazard bin after the Joint Commission had left.
According to the Joint Commission's quality report, BMH was found to have three standards out of compliance, including clear and accurate medication orders.
Schuelke said she tried to correct some of those issues while she was at BMH.
"One administrator in particular laughed at me," said Schuelke.
Seal doesn't find the situation she was put into very funny. She hopes BMH will make improvements for the sake of the community.
"Not just the minimum of what (the hospital) can get away with, but it needs to be the highest standard of care that patients should have," said Seal. "It should be the best practice."
All three women, Seal, Tarpley and Schuelke, described a work environment of fear. They said people are afraid speaking up will cost them their job. As a current employee, Seal said if she's let go for giving the interview, at least she has a clear conscience.
Bingham Memorial Hospital did not comment on Wednesday night.