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Logan v. Civil Service Com.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Union County; the Hon. C. Ross REYNOLDS, Judge, presiding.


The defendants, Civil Service Commission and Department of Public Welfare of the State of Illinois, have appealed directly from a judgment of the circuit court of Union County reversing a decision of the Civil Service Commission discharging plaintiff, Cora Logan, from her position as "Nurse I" in the classified service of the State of Illinois, on the ground that she had insufficient vision to properly perform her duties.

The proceeding for plaintiff's dismissal was instituted by the filing of written charges with the commission by Dr. R.C. Steck, division head of the Anna State Hospital, alleging that psychological examination of Cora Logan revealed some changes in structure and function of personality due to organicity, and that she had insufficient vision to properly perform her duties of administering drugs as a Nurse I. Pursuant to a request by Cora Logan, a hearing was held before an officer of the Illinois Civil Service Commission as provided under the terms of the Civil Service Act. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1953, chap. 24 1/2, par. 14.

From the evidence adduced at that hearing, on May 15, 1952, it appears that Cora Logan was then 67 years of age. She had originally been employed by the State of Illinois as an attendant at various hospitals from 1911 until 1919, and on March 8, 1944, she was reinstated and was certified as an attendant for the Department of Public Welfare, employed at the Chicago State Hospital. On January 26, 1948, she was reclassified to the position of nursing attendant, and on November 15, 1948, she became a registered nurse. She was transferred to the Anna State Hospital on January 1, 1951, and remained there as a nurse until her suspension on April 4, 1952.

According to the testimony of Dr. Steck, the duties of a registered nurse of plaintiff's classification include measuring and administering drugs and injections, reading and understanding directions, and making medical records. He identified defendant's exhibits of certain typical glass ampules of medication selected at random from the hospital pharmacy, which a Nurse I is required to administer in the performance of her duties. He then explained that a nurse must first examine the ampule to identify its contents, since a great variety of medication is put up in similar type containers, and that she must then extract the medication from it under sterile procedure, which ordinarily involves scoring the neck of the ampule with a small file and drawing up the medicine into the syringe.

He further testified that he had received numerous complaints about plaintiff's professional ability, including one from the clinical director and another from the business manager, and had also personally observed plaintiff reading with difficulty certain hospital forms which she held some 3 or 4 inches from her eyes in a lighted room. He stated that in consequence of those facts he had requested that an eye examination be given plaintiff by a Dr. W.H. Middleton.

According to the testimony and report of Dr. Middleton, an opthalmologist of considerable training and experience, plaintiff had a visual acuity with her glasses of 20/70 in the right eye, and 20/200 in the left eye, which vision the doctor was unable to improve with any lenses or pinhole. He explained that 20/70 indicated an impairment of vision representing 36 percent visual loss and 64 percent visual deficiency; and that the 20/200 vision in the left eye represented an 80 percent visual loss, and was tantamount to industrial blindness. His examination further revealed corneal scars and astagmus of both eyes. In his opinion it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible for plaintiff to perform some of the duties required as a Nurse I at the Anna Hospital, and that since the printing on ampules is sometimes quite small she could not safely give medication both from the standpoint of reading the ampule and measuring the amount to be placed in the syringe. He also stated that she would have considerable difficulty reading a thermometer or doctors' orders.

The Department further submitted, in support of the written charges, certain demonstrative evidence consisting of ampules of drugs, some in their original cardboard boxes, which were presented to plaintiff for identification. She was unable to read them without the aid of a magnifying glass which she carried in her purse.

Plaintiff's testimony with reference to the use of the magnifying glass was inconsistent. At one time she stated that she used it occasionally when there was some fine work that she was afraid of, and at another time she said that she used it more for curiosity, and that she carried it on duty only once.

On her own behalf plaintiff presented certain exhibits including glass ampules, 2 ccs. in dimension, which bore some colored markings, and also a larger glass bottle with typewritten directions on the label, all of which she identified without the use of a magnifying glass. On cross-examination she admitted that she had a good idea where those ampules came from, since her sister-in-law was a nurse, however, she had made no arrangements with her to furnish any ampules. She protested that in the quietude of the hospital she had no such difficulty reading.

An attendant who worked under plaintiff's supervision testified on her behalf that he had observed her fill syringes and give injections, but had never noted her having any difficulty with her eyesight. He stated that he had also seen her read reports, and that she did not read them as she did at the hearing.

A supervisory nurse who had known plaintiff ever since she began work at Anna Hospital testified that plaintiff was co-operative and seemed efficient and that there did not appear to be anything unusual about plaintiff's eyes. She related one instance when she had checked the dosage given by plaintiff and found it to be correct. However, she had never seen plaintiff read anything.

Plaintiff's supervisor testified that she had approved plaintiff's last efficiency report, in which plaintiff was rated "good" as to the quality of her work and "very good" as to her ability to work with others. She admitted that plaintiff had not been too good at seeing things at the hearing, but had no complaints about plaintiff's work. She further stated that she had seen plaintiff take temperatures and serve patients special diets, but had not seen her measure or administer drugs.

On the basis of substantially the foregoing evidence the hearing officer determined that just cause existed for plaintiff's discharge and that in the interest of public service her visual acuity made her discharge as a nurse imperative. The conclusions of the hearing officer were approved by the Civil Service Commission, which made certain formal findings. These included: that the duties of a Nurse I require medical injections and medication of patients, involving the reading of directions and the measuring and administering of drugs, hence a Nurse I must be able to read and understand print on medication; that Cora Logan exhibited great difficulty in reading printed matter on Department exhibits, which were specimen ampules picked at random from the drug room at Anna State Hospital, and that final reading necessitated the use of a magnifying glass, therefore the demonstrative evidence strengthened the Department's evidence that her vision was so impaired that she could not give ampule medications safely; that Cora Logan had a visual acuity of 20/70 in the right eye and 20/200 in the left eye, according to the testimony of an eminently qualified opthalmologist, which signifies that she is ...

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