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Kaiser Bellflower is fined $187,500 for privacy breach [Updated]

July 16, 2009 | 11:43 am

The Kaiser Permanente hospital in Bellflower has been hit with a $187,500 fine for failing for a second time to prevent unauthorized access to confidential patient information, state pubic health officials said today.

[Updated at 3 p.m.: A spokesman for the hospital said the fine was part of the ongoing investigation into employees improperly accessing the medical records of Nadya Suleman and her children. Disciplinary action has been taken against the employees, said Jim Anderson, a hospital spokesman. All the incidents occurred in January; a previous post said they had occurred in April and May.]

State officials said Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center compromised the privacy of four patients when eight employees improperly accessed records. This is the second penalty against the hospital, officials said.

The hospital was fined $250,000 in May for failing to keep employees from snooping in the medical records of Nadya Suleman, the woman who set off a media frenzy after giving birth to octuplets in January.

The fine was the first penalty imposed and largest allowed under a new state law enacted last year after the widely publicized violations of privacy at UCLA Medical Center involving Farrah Fawcett, Britney Spears, California First Lady Maria Shriver and other celebrities.

“We are very concerned with violations of patient confidentiality and their potential harm to the residents of California,” said Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health. “Medical privacy is a fundamental right and a critical component of quality medical care in California.”

--Ruben Vives