Penn. hospital cited after staff took photos of patient with item in genitals

Surgeons at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham conduct an operation on June 14, 2006. Senior managers of the NHS have said that the organisation needs to become more open in the future. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

A University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospital where staff took photos and videos of a patient being treated for a foreign object lodged in their genitals has been cited by the state Department of Health.

Investigators determined a "ton" of employees at UMPC Bedford Memorial crowded into the operating room to view and take cellphone images of the patient, who was anesthetized during the Dec. 23 incident, reported.

"There were so many people it looked like a cheerleader-type pyramid," one witness told state investigators.

UPMC issued a statement saying the hospital network, Pennsylvania's largest, remains "committed to ensuring that our patients' health information remains confidential."

"The behavior reported in this case is abhorrent and violates the mission of UPMC Bedford and the overall values of UPMC," the network said, adding that UPMC reported the incident quickly upon discovering it.

According to the Health Department report, an employee came forward to complain about the images circulating around the hospital in January.

The Health Department cited UPMC for failing to protect the patient's confidentiality, allowing staff not involved in the patient's care in the operating room and allowing staff to use personal devices to record the patient.

The hospital suspended one doctor for seven days and required six hours of training on medical ethics and patient privacy. Another doctor not involved in the patient's care was suspended for 28 days and ordered to take 18 hours' training.

The hospital has also sent a staff memo about its relevant policies, required surgical staff to attend a meeting on patient confidentiality issues, appointed a new nursing director of surgical services and disciplined an unspecified number of staff. None of the staff involved were identified in the report.
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