By Charles Ornstein
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 18, 2008
UCLA's neuropsychiatric hospital has banned all cellphones and laptop
computers after a patient posted group photos of other patients on a
social networking website, officials confirmed Monday.
Dr. Thomas Strouse, medical director of the Resnick Neuropsychiatric
Hospital, said in a statement that the decision was part of "UCLA Health
System's ongoing efforts to enhance patient privacy and confidentiality
in compliance with California's patient rights law."
Separately, The Times reported last week that UCLA was taking steps to
fire at least 13 workers and had suspended six others for
inappropriately snooping in the electronic medical records of pop star
Britney Spears while she was a patient in the neuropsychiatric hospital.
In addition, six doctors were being disciplined. (Those slated to be
fired did not look at records from Spears' psychiatric stay but rather
from her prior visits to UCLA.)
Spears was not featured in the photos posted online.
UCLA spokeswoman Dale Tate said the hospital became aware of the posted
photos coincidentally from a nurse's family member. The patients
apparently all gave their consent to be photographed, Tate said.
"I was concerned about the potential covert use of such cameras, without
the consent of those being photographed, or under circumstances where
someone's agreement to be photographed might not be well-reasoned or
fully competent," Strouse said in the statement.
Patients continue to have access to conventional telephones in the
hospital, and Strouse said their ability to keep in touch with family
and friends should not be affected.
In a March 3 memo announcing the ban, Strouse wrote that he did not want
to ask staff members to check whether cellphones or laptops had cameras,
so he decided to ban them all.
Other hospitals have banned cellphone cameras as well. Rady Children's
Hospital in San Diego forbade employees from carrying cellphones in
patient-care areas after investigators found images of children, taken
at the hospital, on a respiratory therapist's computer and cellphone.
The therapist later pleaded guilty to child molestation and exhibiting a
minor in pornography. Visitors can have cellphones, but "if they're
using the camera feature on their cellphones, they're only allowed to
take pictures of their child and nobody else," hospital spokesman Ben
Officials at the California Hospital Assn. said they are hearing more
and more hospitals express concern over how to deal with cellphone
cameras. "There's been a heightened awareness of the problem for the
past year or two," said Lois Richardson, the group's vice president and
legal counsel. "However, I haven't seen any hospitals that have been
able to come up with a good, workable tactical solution to the problem."
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