Thirty-two employees who looked at the hospital electronic medical records (EMRs) of teenagers and young adults involved in a high-profile mass drug overdose case in Minnesota in March were terminated last week by Allina Hospitals & Clinics.
Twenty-eight employees at 221-bed Unity Hospital in Fridley and four employees at 286-bed Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids were fired for improperly accessing the records of the patients. Eleven individuals had been hospitalized at the facilities when they became ill after using a synthetic hallucinogenic drug at a party. One of the patients died.
"We take our obligation to protect patient privacy very seriously," Allina said in a statement. "Anything short of a zero-tolerance approach to this issue would be inadequate."
A spokesman for the 11-hospital organization said it has the ability to track whenever an employee accesses patient EMRs, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The spokesman would not identify which employees were involved, but did indicate that they worked in the patient care area.
The spokesman added that all Allina employees go through "compliance training" to review the importance of protecting patient privacy: They are told that violating the rules could cost them their jobs.
Allina's action is unusual in the number of employees and the severity of the discipline, Lawrence Massa, president and CEO of the Minnesota Hospital Association, told the newspaper.