A Prime Healthcare Services hospital in Redding has been fined $95,000 for publicizing a patient’s confidential medical files in an effort to discredit a California Watch news report.
The state Department of Public Health imposed the financial penalties on Prime’s Shasta Regional Medical Center on Nov. 9 for five offenses that occurred last year.
At the time, officials of the Ontario-based hospital chain were trying to undercut a California Watch story about aggressive Medicare billing practices at the Redding hospital.
In an attempt to rebut the story, the hospital's CEO sent an email to 785 people – virtually everyone who worked at the hospital – disclosing details from a 64-year-old diabetes patient’s confidential files, state investigators wrote in their report. The patient had been interviewed by California Watch for its story.
Earlier, the hospital CEO, Randall Hempling, took the woman’s medical files to the editor of the local newspaper, the Redding Record Searchlight, to dissuade him from reprinting California Watch's story.
All the disclosures were illegal because they were made without the patient’s knowledge or permission, the state said. The hospital “failed to prevent unlawful or unauthorized access” to the patient’s medical files, Debby Rogers, a deputy director at the health department, wrote in a letter to Prime.
Prime spokesman Edward Barrera said the company believes it did nothing wrong and has filed an appeal.