Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Hospital in Bellflower, Calif., has been fined $250,000 for unauthorized employee access to the medical records of Nadya Suleman, the woman who gave birth to octuplets in January this year.
Under a new law enacted last year--after the University of California Los Angeles' Medical Center's violations of privacy involving celebrities such as Farrah Fawcett, Britney Spears and California First Lady Maria Shriver--the Kaiser fine is the first and largest allowable monetary penalty imposed for such violations, reported the Los Angeles Times.
According to the state department of public health, Suleman's records were accessed beyond the Bellflower hospital and continued to be after the hospital first informed regulators of the incident.
Eight workers at other Kaiser hospitals and the chain's regional office were among those implicated, said Kathleen Billingsley, deputy director of the public health department's Center for Health Care Quality. Hospital employees are under investigation by the California Office of Health Information Integrity, which could impose additional, individual penalties, reported the LA Times.
On Feb. 5, two employees inappropriately accessed the records of Suleman, who gave birth on Jan. 26. By Feb. 20, six employees were identified as having accessed records without authorization, and 17 more were added to the list by March 20, according to Kaiser.
Of those, 15 were either terminated or resigned under pressure and eight--including doctors--faced other disciplinary actions, the state said in a report, according to the LA Times.
The hospital issued repeated warnings to staff members about privacy laws and added a prompt to Suleman's computerized records warning employees of the consequences for looking without permission, said Kaiser spokesman Jim Anderson, explaining the steps Kaiser took regarding the matter.
Kaiser has 10 days to decide whether to appeal the fine, reported the LA Times.