First of all I wanted to say that I created this account for my wife. She is fighting either an unbelievable level of incompetence or unimaginable level of malice from her now former employer. I figured we are at the point where we need to crowd source some ideas from people that are in her field.
(I am a programmer who works in the healthcare realm, just for background on me)
-Floor nurse on a telemetry floor for 3 years on 3rd shift in upstate NY.
-Terminated for supposed HIPAA violation.
My wife was brought into an early morning meeting after her shift ended to discuss a problem. She was confronted about accessing ED Pt records ‘view’ screen. She said yes, I look at the chief complaint as do most other nurses to get a sense of potential Pt admissions. (the ED EHR main screen when logging in has First, Last, DOB it does not have chief complaint for her).
She said she thought it was acceptable since other nurses do the same thing (common practice she learned on the floor) and the newer nurses now have chief complaint on the main screen (no need to click ‘view’). The hospital administrators in the meeting were shocked that the newer nurses could see chief complaint by default.
My wife had already accepted a new job at another hospital and already had her resignation letter in her pocket to hand to her manager, which she did immediately after this meeting. With two shifts left before leaving on good terms she gets a phone call where they terminate her for this ‘HIPAA violation’.
She was also accused of looking at Pts on another unit, but that was debunked during the meeting where they fired her by her manager because she picks up shifts on that other unit and the access was appropriate. (yes, they didn’t even know where she worked before accusing her and firing her)
Some of the other RNs were also investigated for doing the same thing, but so far no one else has been fired. They would have to fire half the RNs in the hospital if the same standard was applied. The ombudsman was helpful at first, but now seems useless. HR wont even talk to her and says, via the ombudsman, they don’t have to follow the employee handbook because she ‘broke the law’.
A. What can she expect with this type of HIPAA violation?
B. Is there any recourse to fight this?
C. Will her new employer be notified of the violation?
D. Is there any whistle-blower protection since she notified them of their own HIPAA violations (by their definition, not hers)?
E. Is the hospital simply using her as a scapegoat so they can say the 'problem was fix' so they don't have to report themselves?
F. Any Pro bono lawyers or groups that deal with libel in the health care world?
Please feel free to ask any questions and we both really appreciate any help that can be provided.