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DALLAS -- A nurse practitioner at the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been pulled from seeing patients and placed on administrative duties as the hospital investigates an allegation that she harassed a lesbian veteran with an anti-gay rant.
According to a report in the Dallas Voice, former Marine Lance Cpl. Esther Garatie, 28, went to the Dallas VA Medical Center on Oct. 12 to “seek treatment for severe depression and possible post-traumatic stress disorder -- including thoughts of suicide.”
Garatie, who was wounded and honorably discharged from the Marines, claims that nurse practitioner Lincy Pandithurai told her that the reason she was depressed and contemplating suicide was because she is a lesbian.
In the wake of this incident, Garatie and her friend, Jessica Gerson, launched a petition on Change.org calling on the Dallas VA and the Texas Board of Nursing to investigate and fire Nurse Pandithurai. On Monday, after 12,000 supporters signed the petition, Monica Smith, a spokeswoman for the VA Medical Center, confirmed to Change.org in an email that nurse Pandithurai will no longer see patients while the Dallas VA reviews the complaint and completes its investigation, which is expected to conclude by the end of the month.
"We started a fact-finding review when this allegation was first brought to our attention," Smith said. "To get a more in-depth look at the allegation, VA North Texas is now conducting an administrative investigation board review and expects to have that completed by the end of November. The nurse named in the allegation is currently placed on administrative duties while the investigation is ongoing."
Gerson, who started the Change.org petition with Garatie, said that she’s been trying to tell Esther’s story to anyone who will listen in hopes of convincing the VA to investigate and potentially fire the nurse.
"This campaign isn't just about helping Esther -- it's about protecting other gay and lesbian servicemembers from having to deal with this kind of hate and bigotry, especially after they’ve given so much in service of our country," said Gerson.
Gerson believes that if enough people demand that the Dallas VA Medical Center investigate Nurse Pandithurai, she could be forced from her job. That’s something the Dallas VA Medical Center indicated could happen if the allegations against Nurse Pandithurai are found to be credible.
"VA North Texas Health Care System does not tolerate discrimination on any level and takes any allegation of such behavior seriously," said Smith. "Each employee who interacts with every veteran patient is expected to demonstrate our core values of integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence. This allegation is being investigated and if substantiated, appropriate measures will be taken to address the issue."