Every so often, a case comes along that pits health privacy against public safety, such as the case involving a honeymooning Atlanta lawyer who was publicly named — and sued by fellow air passengers — for posing a risk to the public of a treatment-resistant strain of tuberculosis. The lawyer eventually sued the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In the lawsuit, Andrew Speaker accused the CDC of “unlawfully and unnecessarily” disclosing his private medical history, among other claims.
Now another case is making the news. This time, it is a surgical scrub nurse named Kristen Parker, and one issue is that after she was fired for suspect drug theft, the hospital did not inform her next potential employer that Parker was a carrier of Hepatitis C, had not sought treatment for it, and posed a risk to the health and safety of patients. Parker was a scrub technician at Rose Medical Center in Denver and then Audubon Ambulatory Surgery Center in Colorado Springs.
An employee at Rose Medical Center in Denver told reporter Tyler Lopez that information would not be disclosed to other medical facilities because it is confidential. “We could have said here’s when she started, here’s when she left and she was terminated for cause,” said Dr. Donald Lefkowits, Emergency Room director at Rose. “I’m pretty sure that’s all we were actually legally able to say.”
But others disagree that that’s where the legal obligation ends, and reiterate that public safety trumps privacy.
In the meantime, Parker has been held without bond on federal drug-related charges, but not on any charges related to people she may have exposed to Hep C. During an interview with police, Parker told them that she didn’t know she was infected when she stole painkillers meant for patients and replaced the medication with saline in dirty syringes.
A class action lawsuit against Parker and HealthOne was filed this week.
If you’re needle-phobic, you may not want to watch the video from KRDO: