Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Hospital workers fired for spying on Suleman's files

March 30, 2009 |  9:39 pm

The Octomom saga took a new twist tonight with word that some workers at the hospital where Nadya Suleman gave birth to octuplets snooped on her medical records. This has happened before at L.A. hospitals where celebrities are treated. And officials have vowed to improve controls.

[Updated: Check out Julie Cart's story in The Times]. Details from AP:

Fifteen hospital workers have been fired and another eight disciplined for looking at medical records of octuplet mother Nadya Suleman without permission, hospital officials said Monday.

Kaiser Permanente reported the violations of healthcare privacy laws to the state and has warned employees at its Bellflower facility to keep away from Suleman’s records unless they have a medical purpose, said hospital spokesman Jim Anderson.

“Despite the notoriety of this case, to us this person is a patient who deserves the privacy that all our patients get,” Anderson told the Associated Press.

Anderson would not elaborate on how the other eight employees were reprimanded, saying only that the punishments were significant.

A similar privacy breach at UCLA hospitals led to celebrities’ medical information being leaked to tabloids in recent years, including details of Farrah Fawcett’s cancer treatment showing up in the National Enquirer.

Anderson said Kaiser does not believe any of Suleman’s information was shared with the media, based on the results of the inquiry.

The 33-year-old single mother gave birth to her octuplets Jan. 26 at Kaiser’s hospital in Bellflower,  southeast of Los Angeles.

Her attorney Jeff Czech said Suleman does not plan to file a lawsuit, though he suspects Kaiser employees were looking for medical information on Suleman’s sperm donor. He said the name was not listed on the medical records.

“She trusts Kaiser, and they said they’d look into it,” Czech said. “We feel that they’re on top of it and are taking care of it.”

Anderson could not provide details about when Suleman’s medical records were accessed. He said Kaiser had warned its employees about patient confidentiality rules before Suleman checked into the hospital in December.

“Even though no one knew she was there, they knew she was going to have a lot of babies,” Anderson said. “The extra monitoring helped determine that there were people who looked at the records who did not have reason to do so.”

Even if the employees peeked at the records just to satisfy their curiosity, without any intention of disclosing details, they were disciplined according to Kaiser’s policies, Anderson said.

Several state public health investigations have shown that more than 1,000 patients had their records inappropriately accessed at UCLA medical facilities since 2003, and that 165 hospital employees — from doctors to orderlies — were disciplined through firings, suspensions and warnings.

It was unclear whether a state investigation was underway at Kaiser. A call to the California Department of Public Health was not returned Monday evening.

Previously on L.A. Now

Octuplets mom admits she was 'in denial' about baby homecoming

911 calls released in octuplets mom's homecoming

La Habra overrun by octuplets mania [UPDATED]

Octuplets mom 'upset' hospital hasn't released babies to her

Octuplets' mother loses another publicist

Father of octuplets' mother calls her "absolutely irresponsible"

Octuplets' mom identifies her fertility clinic in Beverly Hills

Octuplets story takes surreal turns, including You Tube video