OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Kevin Readel worked at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital South for over five years. That was until Wednesday when he claims he was fired for wearing a droplet isolation mask.
"It was to protect myself, to protect the patient and to protect my family,” Readel told KFOR.
Readel worked in the Cardiac Care Unit, an ICU area of the heart hospital. Readel said he didn’t wear it all the time, but he was wearing it while putting an IV in a patient on Monday.
"I was trying to maintain some level of barrier,” he said when referencing himself and the patient.
According to Readel, his supervisor approached him and allegedly told him he needed to take it off, stating that it could cause fear and panic among the patients and staff.
“I questioned that,” Readel said.
Readel said his supervisor then sent him home. Later, Readel's supervisor called him and told him to come to the human resources office Wednesday. Readel said he gave them a written statement voicing his concern about being asked to take the mask off. That’s when Readel said he was fired.
"I was told that also, by the way, kind of like a caveat to the thing was that your health insurance will be terminated by midnight that same day,” he said.
He claims that he did not put the mask back on when he was told to take it off. Mark Hammons is Readel’s attorney, who said his firing comes at a crucial time for health care in the nation and state.
"Absolutely the worst thing that any employer can do at this time,” Hammons said.
KFOR received this statement from the Oklahoma Heart Hospital South:
“Oklahoma Heart Hospital is unable comment on matters related to the employment of a particular employee. However, we can assure the public that the safety of our patients, visitors and co-workers is our top priority. Oklahoma Heart Hospital is following CDC guidelines on infection prevention and infection control including the proper use of face masks and personal protective equipment.”
Readel responded with Integris Hospital’s adopted policy based on CDC guidelines released Monday.
"It's based on science put forth by the CDC,” he said.
The policy allows their employees to wear the masks that Readel was sent home for.
"I figured two and two make four in Oklahoma, just like it does in Alabama,” he said.
Hammons and Readel are taking legal action, seeking $75,000 in damages.