Landmark Hospital of Athens based in Georgia suspended three staff members who are alleged of viewing, copying or exposing patient records. The likely HIPAA breach can be associated to a legal case that four nursing staff submitted against the 42-bed hospital on June 22, 2020. The four nurses reported that the hospital was faking COVID-19 test findings as a “COVID-19 coverup”.
The nurses assert that the hospital had five patients who tested positive for COVID-19 upon exhibiting signs or symptoms. As soon as the positive result became available, the hospital supervisor requested to do COVID-19 tests for those patients again. The nurses claim that for the retests, samples were deliberately collected without sticking to appropriate sampling practices. They say that this was carried out intentionally to minimize the likelihood of a positive test result.
The nurses were named as Jane Doe and John Doe in the lawsuit. They are seeking speedy court intervention to keep the hospital from covering up and mishandling a COVID-19 outbreak inside the premises. The nurses at the same time want the hospital to halt receiving and discharging patients momentarily. The nurses also seek damages as they assert they have been unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19.
The nurses assert the falsification of COVID-19 test results enabled the discharge of patients, freeing up beds for other patients so that the hospital could continue to bill Medicare for services and retain patient volume.
The lawsuit claims the patients who were COVID positive were not quarantined and the nurses taking care of those patients didn’t receive any PPE. They further say that the air conditioning system wasn’t working for the time period the patients were in the hospital. Mobile air conditioners are utilized which take the air from patient rooms and blow it into corridors, which increased the likelihood of other patients and staff getting COVID-19. The air conditioning system employs dry hydrogen peroxide to lower the risk of circulating contaminants.
According to the nurses, they stated their concerns with Landmark’s administration, but there was no action taken therefore the legal action. They state that what the hospital did has introduced a public health threat, and put patients and healthcare workers and their families in danger.
Landmark Hospital of Athens CEO Marie Saylor released a statement that the hospital administration will check the allegations and protect the hospital and its personnel against misleading and wrong claims. The hospital always gives priority to the security and wellness of patients and personnel and will keep on doing so while dealing with the local effect of the COVID-19 crisis.