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Social worker claims harassment after VA Hospital complaints

She cried foul about the way a Veteran Affairs hospital in Hines allegedly was treating its patients. Now, she says she is being harassed by the hospital for speaking up.

Germaine Clarno, a social worker at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital and employee union president, alleged back in May that Hines patients were being kept on secret waiting lists so hospital executives could collect bonuses linked to meeting standards for speedy treatment. It was an alleged scam that is now believed to be a nationwide problem for VA hospitals.

Clarno alleged on Wednesday that after a July 25 meeting with a White House representative, along with U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, about the alleged negligence and corruption happening at Hines, a series of what Kirk called “retaliatory events” were directed at her, beginning last week. Among them, Clarno said she witnessed a person trying to access her computer remotely in order to copy files from her hard drive. Clarno also alleged that she was locked out of her computer by the IT department because her computer was the only one at Hines to be flagged as needing to be encrypted.

Clarno said she was locked out of her computer for almost a week, until Wednesday afternoon. So she couldn’t do her job as a social worker.

Hines spokeswoman Charity Hardison said Clarno was never without a computer because “she was provided a replacement desktop device at the time her unencrypted device was removed from the network.” Clarno denies that.

Hardison also said, “Ms. Clarno’s desktop device was one of a few remaining across the VA still needing an update.”

Despite the alleged retaliation, Clarno said she doesn’t regret coming forward with her claims because Hines needs to be accountable “to make sure the [veterans] are getting the best quality care.”

Kirk, meanwhile, said the abuse that Clarno suffered under Joan Ricard’s administration is further evidence that she should step down as director of Hines.

“To be retaliating against these people means that your corruption is deep in your heart,” he said. “That you’re kind of drunk with power.”

But Hardison said, “The director and all employees at Hines VA Hospital remain committed to leading this organization with integrity and providing the best care our veterans have earned and deserve.”