Physician pleads guilty in nurse whistleblower case

In plea bargain, Rolando Arafiles gets 60 days in jail

Physician Rolando Arafiles on Monday pleaded guilty to criminal charges of retaliation against two nurses who anonymously reported his dangerous behavior to the Texas Medical Board, the AP/Washington Post reports.

Arafiles will be the fourth man—following Winkler County's sheriff, prosecutor, and hospital administrator—to serve jail time for either abusing his position or criminally retaliating against the nurses.

Background on the case
Two Winkler County Memorial Hospital (WCMH) nurses were fired after reporting Arafiles to the medical board. They believed that Arafiles practiced dangerous prescribing and surgical procedures, such as performing a skin graft—which ultimately failed—without surgical privileges and suturing a rubber tip to a patient's injured finger. Although the hospital had internally reprimanded Arafiles, the nurses felt the process was moving too slowly and dispatched an unsigned letter to the state board.

Winkler County's sheriff uncovered the two nurses as authors of the letter. In response, a hospital administrator fired the nurses, and a state prosecutor filed a criminal lawsuit against them, citing harassment of Arafiles. The nurses later won a $750,000 settlement from the county. Arafiles, the prosecutor, the county sheriff, and the hospital administrator were indicted on charges, including misuse of official information, official oppression, and retaliation.

In March, the hospital administrator pleaded guilty to one count of abuse of official capacity and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. In June, the sheriff was found guilty of retaliation, misuse of official information, and official oppression, and was sentenced to 100 days in jail and four years of felony probation. In October, the prosecutor was found guilty of four felony counts of misuse of official information and retaliation, and two misdemeanor counts of official oppression for his role in the case. He was suspended from office and sentenced to four months in jail.

Arafiles to serve 60 days in jail
As part of a plea agreement, Arafiles admitted to urging the county sheriff and prosecutor to retaliate against the nurses. He pleaded guilty to two counts each of felony misuse of official information and retaliation and voluntarily surrendered his state medical license.

Arafiles will not face a felony aggravated perjury charge for allegedly lying under oath when he testified at one of the nurse's trials that he did not know how the sheriff obtained contact information for the patients involved in the complaint.

Arafiles has been fined $5,000 and sentenced to 60 days in jail and five years of probation. However, his probation comes with deferred adjudication that would keep the conviction off his record if he complies with all terms of the deal (AP/Post, 11/7; Lowes, Medscape Medical News, 11/7).


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