Cell Phone Photos Lead To Hospital Firings

Several medical workers at the Tri-City Hospital in Oceanside were allegedly secretly taking pictures of patients and patient records with their cell phones, 10News investigators learned.

Suellyn Ellerbe, Tri-City’s chief financial officer, acknowledged the information 10News received was true.

“Unfortunately, yes, there were a group of employees who did not follow our rules and who did not conduct themselves in the way that we expect them to,” said Ellerbee. “It’s a violation of our policy and potential violation of federal HIPAA policies.”

According to the information given to 10News investigators, on April 18, a patient who attempted suicide was brought to the emergency room at Tri-City.

A worker was caught taking a picture of the patient using a cell phone.

“As far as we know, the photo was not taken,” said Ellerbee.

In another incident, patient X-rays have been photographed without permission.

“Someone took an image of an image, if you will. There was no patient information on that image,” said Ellerbee.

Pam Dixon of the World Privacy Forum said she was appalled.

“I don’t think people when they go in a hospital expect their picture to be transported elsewhere,” said Dixon.

However, the Tri-City case is similar to the case of Wayne Bleyle, the respiratory therapist from Children’s Hospital who was convicted of molesting patients. He also shot pornographic pictures of his patients with his cell phone.

“There needs to be sanctity of our information in a medical setting. We need assurances our privacy is not being violated,” said Dixon.

The hospital said there was no breach of patient privacy but confirmed with 10News that five nurses, three secretaries and two technicians were fired.

“We believe we have discharged the appropriate people and have taken actions that should be taken,” said Ellerbee.

Privacy experts said this is a serious breach of patient rights and cell phones with cameras should be banned from hospitals.

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