Thursday, October 2, 2008

Don't Mess with Maria!

Schwarzenegger creates hospital privacy oversight office
The move comes months after his wife, Maria Shriver, and other celebrities had their medical records peeked at by employees at UCLA.

By Patrick Mcgreevy October 01, 2008

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took action today to enable the state to impose stiff fines on hospital employees who snoop in their patients’ files, months after California First Lady Maria Shriver was one of several celebrities whose privacy was invaded at UCLA Medical Center.

The governor approved the creation of a new state Office of Health Information Integrity with power to review security plans and violations and assess fines of up to $250,000 against violators of patient privacy.

The governor’s decision follows a series of reports by The Times during the last year that at least 127 employees at UCLA peeked at the confidential medical records of celebrities including Britney Spears, Farrah Fawcett and Shriver.

“Repeated violations of patient confidentiality are potentially harmful to Californians, which is why financial penalties are needed to ensure employees and facilities do not breach confidential medical information,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement after signing AB 211, by Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento), which creates the new oversight office and fines on individuals.

He also signed a companion bill that allows fines of up to $250,000 against hospitals and health clinics for such breaches and increases the maximum fine for serious medical errors from the current $50,000 to $125,000. SB 541 was written by Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara).

Schwarzenegger was outraged when his wife’s records were breached by an employee, saying no one should have that happen.

“Californians seeking care at a hospital or health facility should never have to worry that their private medical information will be shared,” the governor said today.