Hospital Staff Cited, Doctors Suspended For Photos Of Patient's Genital Injury


A Pennsylvania hospital's staff were under fire earlier this year after allegedly spreading a photo of a patient's genitals. The staff in question have been cited, and doctors involved were already given suspensions.

Operating Room Mishap

In January, a hospital employee reported to hospital administrators about photographs of a patient making the rounds among staff members. The photographs were of a patient who was treated in the facility in December of 2016.

At the time of the photo and video taking, the patient was under anesthesia in the operating room, and was in the facility for surgery to remove a "foreign body" in the genital area. Evidently, multiple staff members had taken photos and videos of the patient's genitals using their personal phones and showed them to other staff members.

"The behavior reported in this case is abhorrent and violates the mission of UPMC Bedford and the overall values of UPMC," said Patt Keith of UPMC Media Relations.

The incident was immediately self-reported by UPMC to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Hospital Citations

Because of the incident, the Pennsylvania Department of Health cited the hospital for multiple violations including their inability to protect the patient's privacy, allowing non-involved staff members into the operating room, and letting them use personal devices to take the photographs.

Staff members involved were disciplined according to the hospital's HR policy, a new Surgical Services Nursing director was appointed in April, and doctors involved in the incident were suspended for up to 28 days. One of whom was not involved in the patient's care, but was present during the incident.

The Director of Nursing at the hospital sent a memo to all hospital staff stressing the importance of adhering to health system policies especially with regards to photographing and filming in the facility, incident reporting, and respecting the patients' Bill of Rights.

Further, all members of the surgical services department were ordered to attend an in-service regarding privacy and confidentiality.

Was The OR Camera Broken?

In an interview with the physicians involved, each stated that the OR camera was broken at the time and that the photographs were taken for documentation and future medical lecture purposes. Further, each of them also observed people coming and going in the OR to take photographs and videos.

At one point, one of the physicians even reportedly told the other staff members to stop taking photos, saying "Stop, this is a HIPAA violation" but could not hold anyone back. Still, it was apparently only later on that they realized what was being done to the photographs.

However, upon checking the OR camera during the investigation, it was found that the OR camera was indeed working, something that one of the physicians commented on, saying that it was apparently just too complicated to use. As such, the hospital re-trained the staff regarding the correct usage of the OR camera.

The patient has already been notified of the incident.

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