California fines Kaiser hospital $250,000 for violations of patient privacy

As we mentioned earlier, Kaiser Permanente fired fifteen employees (and disciplined eight additional employees) for looking at the medical records of Nadya Suleman, the mother of octuplets commonly referred to as "Octomom."

On May 14, 2009, California authorities fined Bellflower Hospital, the Kaiser facility where Ms. Suleman was treated, $250,000, the maximum allowed under California's new patient privacy law. The law allows the California Department of Public Health to impose fines against healthcare facilities of up to $25,000 per patient for the first violation and $17,500 for each additional violation, up to $250,000.

While the spokesperson for Kaiser argued that the healthcare provider "took numerous steps to prevent" violations of Ms. Suleman's privacy, state officials maintain that such steps were insufficient:

The steps Kaiser took to protect Suleman's privacy were not aggressive enough, Billingsley and other state health officials said.

"It's the hospital's job to prevent these breaches from occurring, not just crack down after the fact," said Kim Belshé, secretary of California's Health and Human Services.

Governor Schwarznegger supported this development:  "The fine issued today should be a reminder that there are consequences for violations of medical privacy."

"Kaiser hospital fined $250,000 for privacy breach in octuplet case", Los Angeles Times (May 15, 2009).

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