Entrance to Calais Regional Hospital in August 2019. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

A former obstetrics nurse has sued the hospital in Calais, alleging that she was kept on administrative leave for nearly two years after the decision was made to fire her due to concerns she’d raised about dangerously low staffing and a stillborn birth.

Donna Webb, 62, of Calais claims in her lawsuit that management delayed informing her of the termination because she had raised concerns beginning in 2013 that having just four obstetric nurses to cover all shifts endangered patients, especially those whose pregnancies were considered high risk.

“On Sept. 27, 2014, the fears of Webb and her co-workers tragically became prophetic with the death of an unborn fetus due to the risks created by CRH’s negligence and understaffing,” the complaint said. “The negligence commenced with CRH admitting a high-risk pregnancy instead of transferring the mother and fetus to a qualified hospital.”

As a result of that stillbirth, Webb was placed on paid administrative leave on Oct. 8, 2014, the complaint said. She was suspended without pay on June 29, 2016. Two weeks later, Webb chose to resign rather than be fired even though the Maine Board of Nursing had investigated and found she was not negligent in the baby’s death.

Webb is seeking back pay and unspecified damages.

Information about Webb’s current employment status was not included in court documents.

The hospital shut down the obstetrics department, citing financial concerns, in 2017 and filed for bankruptcy two years later. Earlier this year, Down East Community Hospital agreed to buy the Calais facility but it has not yet emerged from bankruptcy. The hospital has since been renamed Calais Community Hospital.

Webb’s case, initially filed in Washington County Superior on Jan. 2, 2018, has been delayed by the bankruptcy and procedural setbacks. Two months after it was filed alleging that Webb’s firing violated the Maine Whistleblower Protection Act, lawyers for the hospital moved the case to federal court in Bangor.

U.S. District Judge Lance Walker in July 2019 found in the hospital’s favor because the provisions of Webb’s union contract preempted the provisions in the whistleblower’s act.

Webb refiled the case at the Machias courthouse in January 2020, alleging that the hospital fraudulently concealed her firing from her. Last week, lawyers for the hospital again moved the case to federal court.

Attorneys on both sides declined this week to comment on the case.

The answer to the complaint from lawyers for Calais Community Hospital is due Sept. 29.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the date when Webb was placed on administrative leave.