‘I would not be a patient’ | Former staff speak out after Dallas hospital layoffs


Laid-off employees say the White Rock Medical Center, formerly known as Doctors’ Hospital, appeared to have significant financial issues.

DALLAS — Multiple former employees at White Rock Medical Center raised concerns over staffing, financial and supply issues they said lead them to recommend patients avoid the East Dallas hospital. 

The hospital confirmed it laid off 158 people, more than a third of its staff, last week. It stopped accepting EMS-transported patients following the layoffs. A spokesperson said it resumed taking EMS patients 7 a.m. Tuesday. 

Staff who lost their jobs at the facility, formerly known as Doctors’ Hospital, said they had concerns in the months before they received pink slips. They detailed restrictions on ordering basic supplies, delays fixing critical equipment and short staffing caused by repeated layoffs. 

“I don’t feel bad about saying it. I would not be a p atient at that hospital at all,” former telemetry tech Nichelle Runnels said. “I have had some people that I know who were patients there and I just reached out and said ‘Hey, maybe you need to go somewhere else.'” 

Runnels said she faced restrictions on ordering pens and paper “because there was no money.” She also claims the hospital was late paying her several times — a claim a hospital spokesperson denies. 

Hospital Chief Restructuring Officer & General Counsel Terry Fokas said “As part of an ongoing increased efficiency effort to reduce waste and spoilage, supplies were strategically redistributed throughout all departments limiting ‘stockpiling.'”

He said there have not been any issues providing the supplies necessary for hospital operations. 

Several employees described a turbulent termination process. Runnels said she was let go around 8:30 p.m., shortly after returning home from a 12-hour shift watching patients’ heart monitors. 

She called her boss to ask if she needed to show up for her next scheduled shift hours later — and was told it didn’t matter to her boss; she had just lost her job too. 

In a note shared with hospital staff Tuesday and provided to WFAA by a spokesperson, hospital owner Heights Healthcare CEO Mirza Baig thanked remaining staff for their continued work during the layoffs. 

“As we navigated these changes in prioritizing patient safety and adapting to a reduced workforce, your collaboration was invaluable,” he wrote. “I am pleased to report that we have now stabilized our staffing levels across all critical services necessary for effectively handling EMS operations.” 

Baig said all hospital systems and staffing are fully operational, although it will still be on “advisory diversion” for stroke and major heart attack patients “given our reduced capacity.” 

“In the past I would’ve recommended it, but not now,” said former manager of case management Laura Cooper of the hospital. 

She said the hospital’s CT scanner was inoperable for nearly a week because “they didn’t have the money to get it fixed.” 

The result was delayed care for patients at the hospital and who arrived by ambulance. 

“It could put a person in a precarious position,” she said. 

Last week’s layoffs came amid ongoing litigation between current owner Heights Healthcare and California-based Pipeline Health, from which Heights bought the hospital last fall. 

The complaint, filed in Dallas District Court in early February, alleges Pipeline Health misrepresented the hospital’s financials to the tune of $11 million — more, it said, than the total purchase price for the hospital. Court records indicate Pipeline was asking a judge to compel Heights Healthcare to settle the dispute in arbitration.