A doctor and nurse formerly employed in St. Benedict's Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit have filed discrimination complaints alleging they were fired because they are black.
Dr. Benjamin Hart and nurse Beverly Overton, both of Ogden, filed separate complaints with the state Industrial Commission. Overton was fired in June and Hart at the end of August.St. Benedict's Administrator Dale St. Arnold denied the accusations but declined to say why Overton and Hart were let go, citing privacy and civil liberties considerations.
John A. Medina, director of the anti-discrimination division of the Industrial Commission, said his agency is investigating both complaints.
He said there have been some efforts toward mediating the complaints, but he would not discuss details.
Hart and Overton say they were not specifically told why they were fired. They said they were never told there were problems or given warnings that they needed to make improvements in their work.
Hart has worked as a neonatologist in Ogden for 10 years. He moved to St. Benedict's to help open its NICU to care for infants born prematurely or with severe problems.
Overton spent nine years working in the NICU at Baptist College in Nashville and two years as an Air Force nurse prior to coming to St. Benedict's in 1989 as an NICU staff nurse. She was promoted to unit supervisor in April 1989.
Overton said her firing came one day after the unit, under her direction, qualified for accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals.
She said she was taken out to lunch and congratulated for the successful certification effort and at the end of the lunch was told she was dismissed.
Hart said he was told in June that the unit was being "restructured" and he would be affected by it. He said he pressed St. Arnold at the time for a reason why he should be asked to leave.
"They didn't give me an answer," he said.
Hart said St. Arnold told him when he was fired that there had been problems in the unit and that he had been part of them.
Despite filing a discrimination complaint, Hart said he dislikes the word "discrimination."
"I've never used that before because I think that's a cop out . . . Why all of a sudden am I canned for problems and nothing shows up in my file? I don't have a letter of reprimand," he said.
He said that since he filed the complaint, the hospital has offered him a settlement, but he refused it. One of the offers, he said, was to erase all the negative things from his file and allow him to write his own letter of recommendation.