When actor George Clooney was admitted into the Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen after a motorcycle accident, staffers scrambled to get a glimpse of the star. Others apparently contented themselves with a peek at his medical files.
Shortly after he was admitted, Clooney told his spokesman, Stan Rosenfeld, that he didn’t plan to issue a statement. Within three hours, however, Rosenfeld received an e-mail from a pop culture magazine saying, “We have information that George Clooney is in Palisades Medical Center” after a motorcycle accident and is “suffering from road rash.” Local and national media quickly pounced on the story.
Neither Clooney nor his companion, Sarah Lawson, who was also hospitalized with injuries from the wreck, complained about the leak. Still, Palisades launched an investigation. Without discussing the results, the hospital suspended 27 workers for a month without pay for violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Not surprisingly, the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union called the suspensions “an overreaction.” Less predictable was the response from Clooney, who said, “While I very much believe in a patient’s right to privacy, I would hope that this could be settled without suspending medical workers.”
Final note: HIPAA is the federal law that ensures patient privacy.