A former Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital psychiatrist who claimed his contract with the hospital was wrongfully terminated in 2009 has recently filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
In the lawsuit, Dr. Kernan Manion, a board certified psychiatrist for more than 25 years, claims he was wrongfully terminated for reporting mishandled cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune Health Center. He also claims the center lacked the safety protocols necessary to protect those at the base from patients who were diagnosed as potentially violent to themselves or others.
Manion filed the lawsuit against the contracting companies that hired him to work at the hospital: Spectrum Healthcare Resources and Nitelines Kuhana JV LLC.
Manion was hired in early 2009 by Spectrum and Nitelines to provide psychiatric treatment to service members returning from deployment. The suit noted that many of Manion's patients suffered from PTSD or TBI, and Manion believed he was "under constant pressure from his superior to rate patients as acceptable for deployment ... even in circumstances where patients were diagnosed as posing a violent threat to themselves or others or were dangerous for combat deployment due to the presence of a significant mental illness," according to the lawsuit
The suit describes two cases in which Manion witnessed violent acts by his patients, one of which recounts a post-deployment Marine who, in a diagnosed psychotic rage, repeatedly karate-punched a table and stormed out of his session. There was "no support available nor even protocol in place to contain or subdue the patient ... or to emergently and safely get him to urgent care," according to the suit.
The other incident describes Manion's account of watching a service member repeatedly punch a telephone pole with his bare fists, after which he picked up a piece of lumber with a nail protruding through it and walked through the grounds cursing to himself.
Manion "promptly notified appropriate authorities and yet found grossly deficient responses," according to the suit.
When he brought the issues to the attention of his supervisors and to Capt. Gerard Cox, the commanding officer of Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune at the time, he claims he was ignored, and Nitelines informed him in writing to cease and desist all communication with the government.
Two months later, in September 2009, he filed an urgent complaint to the inspector general of the Department of Defense asking him to address the issues his supervisors would not. Nitelines terminated his contract two days after he filed the complaint.
His complaint prompted an onsite quality assurance investigation, which took place in December of that year, according to archived Daily News reports. Findings from the reviews are protected under U.S. Code title 10, section 1102; however, in February of 2010 then-commander of Navy Medicine East Rear Adm. Bob Kiser, told The Daily News that he was satisfied with the results of those reviews.
Manion is now asking the court to grant damages based on the loss of pay and benefits from his termination, as well as compensation for "severe emotional distress, humiliation, anxiety and damages to reputation and future employment." The suit also asks that the court reinstate Manion to his former position as a psychiatrist at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune.
Manion's attorney, Washington, D.C. lawyer Richard Renner, said in general, most whistleblowers seek reinstatement to their former positions because they "tend to be the types of employees who take to heart the mission of the organization and just find themselves in conflict with supervisors who have ulterior motives."
Manion told The Daily News he had been advised by his lawyers not to comment on the lawsuit.
Niteline Vice President Charles Broom also declined to comment, and Spectrum President George Tracy said they could not "comment about any pending litigation, but please note that we are a subcontractor with administrative duties related to staffing and we do not have any clinical or procedural authority at all."
When asked whether Spectrum had the ability to fire Manion, Tracy repeated his statement.
Renner said the defendants are expected to answer the complaint within the month.