Dallas VA hospital to decide within ‘a few weeks’ on discipline for nurse accused of anti-gay tirade

Posted on 05 Dec 2011 at 4:32pm

Esther Garatie

Five weeks after our initial story on Esther Garatie, The Dallas Morning News (subscription only) published a piece on the front page of its Metro section Sunday about the lesbian Marine veteran who alleges she was subject to a hateful anti-gay tirade by a nurse practitioner at the Dallas VA Medical Center in October.

Better late than never, we suppose. And while we could argue that the DMN should have given us credit as the media outlet that broke the story — as the Dallas Observer so graciously did a few weeks back — it’s also true that the Change.org petition calling for the nurse to be fired predated even our report.

Anyhow, there isn’t a whole hell of a lot of new info in the DMN story, but there are a few interesting tidbits. One is that supporters of the nurse, Lincy Pandithurai of Cedar Hill, have launched a Facebook page called, “Support Lincy T Pandithurai (nurse).” When we checked this afternoon, the page had a whopping total of 36 members —  compared to the more than 16,000 who’ve signed the Change.org petition (and the 196 who’ve joined another FB page called, “Fire Nurse Lincy Pandithurai and Revoke Her License“).

But back to the “Support Lincy T Pandithurai (nurse)” FB page mentioned by the DMN, which says the following under Info:

“This dear sweet nurse dared to witness Jesus Christ to a lost lesbian. So now the the gay community would rather see a good nurse fired rather than someone possibly have an opportunity to choose another path. How sad is that? Fellow Americans I ask you to wake up,speak out before it is too late. Let’s show this loving nurse our support. Pray for the lost soul she witnessed to. I bet she never said an unkind word.”

The page features a link to the website of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, a certified anti-gay hate group. But, if your first inclination is go post something nasty on the page, you might want to read this note from the administrator a few days back:

“ATTENTION PRO-’GAY’ ADVOCATES: The dialogue in question happened between two persons. There is the account of only one of the parties made public. Due to patient confidentiality laws, Nurse Pandithurai is not permitted to give her side of the story publicly. Therefore, negative judgements of her (especially “do not judge” rants) will be removed from this page and the posters reported to FB.”

Like us, the Morning News tried unsuccessfully to get Pandithurai’s side of the story. The newspaper did, however, manage to get brief comments from both Pandithurai’s attorney, Darrin Dest of Austin, and her husband, Gnanadurai Pandithurai.

“She has worked in the mental health field in the United States since 1971 and has always endeavored to treat patients with respect, ” said Dest, who is defending Pandithurai against a complaint Garatie filed with the Texas Board of Nursing. “She [Pandithurai] is cooperating fully with open investigations and does not wish to comment further until the investigations are completed.”

“Trust me, she wants to talk, but we have to check with our lawyer,” Gnanadurai Pandithurai told the DMN. “This didn’t happen the way it’s been described. We really don’t want to turn this into a religious fight.”

The Texas Board of Nursing doesn’t comment on pending complaints, which can take a year or more to resolve. In light of the DMN story, we checked today with the VA Medical Center to get an update on the status of the hospital’s own investigation. As we’ve reported, the VA Medical Center has placed Pandithurai on administrative duty pending the outcome.

“The investigative board was due to complete its investigation on Friday [Dec. 2],” VA Medical Center spokeswoman Monica A. Smith told us today. “Once complete, they will forward a report to our Executive Office for review. The Executive Office, Human Resources, and the Office of General Counsel will review the board’s report and determine what, if any, actions are necessary. We expect this will take no longer than a few weeks.”

Stay tuned.

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