Staff Photographs Patient's Genitals, Hospital Cited

Staff Photographs Patient's Genitals, Hospital Cited Promo Image

While people photograph just about everything on their smartphones, it landed one Pennsylvania hospital in serious trouble after state investigators found that several workers clustered together to take pictures of a patient in surgery for a genital injury.

It happened on Dec. 23, 2016, at UPMC Bedford Memorial, when a patient needed a foreign object removed from his privates, said the Pennsylvania Department of Health's report, according to Penn Live.

"In January a hospital employee came forward to complain about photographs that were circulating around the hospital, of a patient under anesthesia while in the [operating room]," the health department wrote. "The patient had a genital injury and OR staff had apparently taken photos and video of the patient using their personal cell phones, and were showing the photos to other hospital staff."

The health department started a probe in May and has since cited the hospital for allowing people not involved in the patient's care to enter the operating room. The hospital was also cited for failing to protect a patient's confidentiality and privacy, and allowing staff to take photos of a patient with personal devices.

During the procedure, a doctor reportedly asked somebody to take a photo of the injury using the operating room camera, "to use for future medical lectures," as an employee recounted to the health department.

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The employee said that the camera wasn't working, so staff ended up using "personal phones."

"Initially, we thought there was only one picture taken, but later we learned of others," reads the health department's report. "We also had the camera checked out, it is working, it is just too complicated to use."

One employee told investigators "the patient was the focal point of all the chaos and that there was a 'ton' of people in the room" when the incident occurred. Another who was not there at the time said that they received the photo via text from the anesthesia department, and one person involved in the surgery said that "there were so many people it looked like a cheerleader type pyramid."

"I was doing a tendon repair, when someone ... came into the room and said that there was a patient in the ER with a genital injury," explained one curious individual, according to The Washington Post. "I thought, 'How does this happen?' I couldn't imagine how the patient did it."

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UPMC released a statement saying it could not comment on details surrounding active investigations, but said it is "committed" to keeping health information confidential.

"The behavior reported in this case is abhorrent and violates the mission of UPMC Bedford and the overall values of UPMC," reads the statement. "Upon discovery, UPMC quickly self-reported the incident to the Pennsylvania Department of Health and took appropriate disciplinary action with the individuals involved."

Two doctors were suspended -- one for seven days and the other for 28. The surgical services nursing director is being replaced.

Sources: Penn Live, The Washington Post via Chicago Tribune / Featured Image: CMSRC/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: SSgt. Derrick C. Goode/ U.S. Air Force​/Wikimedia CommonsJohn Crawford/National Cancer Institute/Wikimedia Commons

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