A rape victim brought a lawsuit against a hospital for sharing her health information with her alleged assailant, before he attacked her again.
A $75,000 lawsuit filed Wednesday in Kansas’s U.S. District Court names Atchison Hospital and a former employee as defendants whose “breach of trust and invasion of privacy unleashed a barrage of harassment from the assailant and hospital staff. The harassment escalated to violence when, approximately six months later, Plaintiff was sexually assaulted by the same man a second time.”
In May 2017, the victim was hospitalized at Atchison for a “violent sexual assault” and shared the name of her alleged assailant when describing the attack. However, she was “adamant” that the information be confidential, in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
An X-ray technician employed by the hospital at the time accessed the victim’s file — allegedly stored in an un-secure manner — and contacted the man, warning him of the accusations, and sharing with him private and “intimate” details from the victim’s personal file.
After talking with the employee, the victim’s alleged rapist “relentlessly harassed Plaintiff through text messages, social media, and phone calls. Such communications were highly threatening and contained graphic language and pornographic content. The assailant also stalked Plaintiff in public and at her home,” the lawsuit says.
The employee joined the harassment, says the claim, “by repeatedly hounding and harassing Plaintiff by phone and text.”
The employee was fired in September 2017, however the lawsuit claims Atchison inadvertently helped her land a new job at St. Luke’s Cushing Hospital in Leavenworth, by either giving her a positive employee review or not disclosing her actions to the new employer.
In November, Atchison CEO John Jacobson sent a letter to the victim saying, “We sincerely and deeply regret” her experience, specifying that the former employee accessed her chart from an outside department before it was scanned into Atchison’s electronic record. Around that same time, says the complaint, the same man assaulted the victim again.
TC Roberts, Atchison Hospital’s marketing director tells Yahoo Lifestyle in a statement,
“…We want you to know that patient confidentiality at Atchison Hospital and our ability to protect personal information is a top priority of ours. While we are limited with what we can share related to this situation, we are deeply disturbed by the actions of this former employee. In fact, when we were made aware of this situation, we took immediate steps to investigate and within two days, we terminated this individual’s employment.”
Roberts wrote, “In addition, we reviewed this specific situation to understand what could be done differently in the future and as a result, immediately implemented changes to our internal controls, including even stricter accessibility requirements to our Health Information Management (HMI) department. We are committed to doing everything possible to provide a safe and caring environment for our patients, and paramount to that is confidentiality and privacy around personal medical information.”
And a spokesperson from Saint Luke’s tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital was unaware of any allegations regarding this employee until the Kansas City Star’s article on Thursday afternoon. In light of the new information, hospital administrators are now conducting a thorough internal review to learn more and determine the most appropriate course of action. The employee in question has been placed on administrative leave until the review is complete. Saint Luke’s places the utmost importance on patient care and patient privacy. All new employees undergo thorough HIPPA training and the hospital has extensive safeguards and processes in place to ensure patient privacy is protected.”
The victim’s lawyers did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s interview requests nor could the X-ray technician be found for comment.
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