Hospital Employees Suspended for Clooney Disclosure

Forty hospital workers at Palisades Medical Center were suspended for disclosing George Clooney’s medical information to the media in violation of federal law. Clooney was involved in a motorcycle accident and within minutes his information was accessed and distributed to the media. This is a very serious matter but here is what a union spokesperson had to say:

“It was inappropriate but they are paying a steep price. But I don’t even think George Clooney would want people to pay. Again, the apology to him for his privacy rights [is necessary], but I think in fact the hospital is overreacting,” says Jean Oterson of the HPAA. WCBSTV

This union spokesperson thinks that these people paid a steep price for violating federal law with regard to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which specifically forbids disclosure of patient information to unauthorized persons or entities. If this spokesperson thinks that the suspensions without pay are steep, wait until the feds get done:

Civil Penalties

Violations of the Administrative Simplification Regulations can result civil monetary penalties of $100 per violation, up to $25,000 per year.

Criminal Penalties

In June 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) clarified who can be held criminally liable under HIPAA. Covered entities and specified individuals, as explained below, whom “knowingly” obtain or disclose individually identifiable health information in violation of the Administrative Simplification Regulations face a fine of up to $50,000, as well as imprisonment up to one year. Offenses committed under false pretenses allow penalties to be increased to a $100,000 fine, with up to five years in prison. Finally, offenses committed with the intent to sell, transfer, or use individually identifiable health information for commercial advantage, personal gain or malicious harm permit fines of $250,000, and imprisonment for up to ten years. AMA

These people will be fortunate if the suspension and loss of pay is as steep as it gets because the feds can really make life miserable for people who disclose health information. These workers received HIPAA training and they had an ethical and legal obligation to keep Clooney’s information private.

This is typical for unions. Also, notice how this person speaks for Clooney?

Big Dog

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26 Responses to “Hospital Employees Suspended for Clooney Disclosure”

  1. Peejz says:

    Everyone, including Follywood celebs, are entitled to their medical privacy!

  2. Perri Nelson says:

    You can bet that no-one was fired or faced HIPAA penalties for disclosing the medical records of a certain conservative talk show host.

  3. Big Dog says:

    True that Perri, true that!!

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  5. […] Erik Davis wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptForty hospital workers at Palisades Medical Center were suspended for disclosing George Clooney’s medical information to the media in violation of federal law. Clooney was involved in a motorcycle accident and within minutes his … […]

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  26. DaveM says:

    As a privacy officer for a hospital system, I am encouraged by Big Dog’s comments-often times HIPAA is simply not taken seriously enough. For a union representative to come out and say something like that, I have to wonder if the union actually supports that position. It would be like saying “don’t fine someone for running a red light.” We support the federal position on privacy strongly, and its very clear. It is imperative that a patient feel free to share all their private information with us to treat them effectively – and to never share that information with anyone. Its a clear breach of trust.

    The level of breachs in this case, as published by the press, meet the definition of both Level II and Level III breaches when the information was released by those employees that shared the information outside of the hospital. In our organization, that would have meant immediate termination – not suspension.