For the 24 workers at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower (Calif.) Medical Center who were fired or reprimanded or who resigned after peeking at the medical records of the now infamous mother of octuplets, their punishment may not be over.
Busted for snooping
Octuplet mom incident latest EHR breach in Calif.
California regulators could take further punitive action against the hospital and the workers under new rules that went into effect in January aimed at curbing the curious from violating the privacy of celebrity patients.
And California hospitals are being overly careful to come clean. A lot of facilities are erring on the side of caution in reporting these events because they dont want to get dinged later for noncompliance, said Ralph Montano, spokesman for the California Department of Public Health, which oversees hospital licensing.
Two employees at 218-bed Kaiser Bellflower were fired for snooping at Nadya Sulemans medical records, and 13 resigned instead of facing termination. Another eight workers have been disciplined, according to Kaiser.
The hospital said it conducted a review of Sulemans electronic health records because of the intense public scrutiny surrounding the births on Jan. 26. Kaisers health records system allows officials to know when anyone accesses a medical record.
Despite extra privacy training and reminders at Kaiser Bellflower prior to the octuplets births, some personnel still snooped, according to Kaiser. Kaiser officials said last week there is no evidence the employeeswho ran the gamut of medical personnel, according to Kaisersold the information.
The state now has the authority to make examples of the workers and the hospital itself. Under new state rules, workers could face fines of up to $250,000 each for the security breach, and be referred to state licensing boards for further disciplinary action. The hospital could also be fined up to $250,000 for failing to protect patients medical records.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the patient privacy bills last September after it came to light that more than 100 workers at 595-bed Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, had peeked at the medical records of celebrity patients including Britney Spears, Farrah Fawcett and the governors wife, Maria Shriver (Nov. 10, 2008, p. 32). The department conducted six investigations into UCLA, resulting in fines and corrective actions.
The Public Health Department said it is investigating Kaiser Bellflower. Kaiser said it has added layers of security on certain records.
with Gregg Blesch
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