Largest Hospital System In The US Threatens To Fire Doctors & Nurses For Telling The Truth About COVID-19 Disaster

from the this-seems-truly-fucked-up dept

Last week we talked about just how insane it was that hospital administrators were threatening and/or firing doctors and nurses for speaking out publicly on social media about just how unprepared America’s healthcare system has been for the COVID-19 pandemic — and now we find out it gets even worse. Business Insider has seen a memo sent around by the country’s largest hospital provider, HCA Healthcare, noting that they changed their social media guidelines just as the pandemic got really cooking, to tell those healthcare professionals on the frontline that telling the truth in public might cost them their jobs:

HCA Healthcare, which has 185 hospitals in 20 states, sent an email to employees on March 24 that added new guidelines for social media and media inquiries during the pandemic. The email said HCA employees could get disciplined or even fired for posting information on social media about its policies about treating patients with COVID-19, the illness caused by this coronavirus. The health system also barred employees from speaking to journalists about the virus without explicit permission from HCA’s communications director.

One nurse, Jhonna Porter, told Business Insider that HCA Healthcare had already suspended her for violating these new guidelines and did so retroactively, for her activity before March 24. Porter, a charge nurse at West Hills Hospital in California, said HCA Healthcare suspended her without pay on March 25, a day after sending the email updating its social-media policy.

The situation with Porter seems particularly ridiculous. She was talking in a private Facebook group with her colleagues, and that’s why she got suspended:

Porter said HCA Healthcare issued her suspension over a phone call and told her it was for talking to her colleagues in a private Facebook group about a floor the hospital had turned into one for treating patients with COVID-19. Porter said the health system said her social-media activity was a violation of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as HIPAA, which mandates that healthcare workers keep patient information private.

Porter said her post did not name the health system or mention sensitive patient information. Rather, she said, she was being punished for being a whistleblower who called out equipment shortages and other hospital issues.

It is true that HIPAA rules are (often overly) strict, and that does limit what healthcare providers can share, but this seems like trying to pin a false HIPAA violation on what is actually embarrassing whistleblowing in the midst of a pandemic.

It’s ridiculous how many times it needs to be said, but, in the midst of a pandemic, accurate and transparent information sharing is the key to actually getting a handle on this and minimizing the damage. That our hospitals are doing the opposite is not just scary, it’s literally putting lives in danger. Meanwhile, I’ll just toss this paragraph here:

HCA Healthcare is publicly traded, with backing from the private-equity firms Bain and KKR, which took the system private in a $33 billion deal in 2006, at the time the largest leveraged buyout in history. Its market capitalization on Monday was nearly $30 billion.

You don’t say.

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Comments on “Largest Hospital System In The US Threatens To Fire Doctors & Nurses For Telling The Truth About COVID-19 Disaster”

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38 Comments
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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Mum's the word

Given that, for example, NYC is looking to ‘draft’ doctors from other parts of the country and others are stating that they lack medical professionals, they would be glad to pick up anyone HCA fires for these petty, self serving rules. The downside is continued employment after the crisis dies down, though I suspect that there are more opportunities for employment for medical professionals than there are medical professionals. The economics might be different, but that is not the same as unemployment.

I wonder how HCA would react if every one of their medical professionals blatantly violated this policy? Would they really fire everyone? If they didn’t, how would they justify the difference between those who were, and those who weren’t?

PaulT (profile) says:

This is one of those 2-sided issues I think. it could be some kind of violation, and even if not it’s possible that the hospitals are being over-cautious in the face of heavy media attention.

On the other hand, it’s not a good look to be firing vital staff when they’re most in need, and you can best your ass this story is something that Trump’s cult would be attacking mercilessly if it had come from somewhere outside the US.

Anonymous Coward says:

So go ahead - suspend away!

By all means, call them on this bluff – speak as you would normally and let them suspend any and everyone involved. This kind of short-sighted stupidity most always comes from some fuckhead who’s so removed from day-to-day operations that they have no idea what kind of PR nightmare they’re creating for themselves, and more importantly their fucking shareholders.

Because if they can’t treat patients due to staffing shortages, they can’t fucking bill them either.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So go ahead - suspend away!

No, but we’ll bill the insurers and/or relatives …

Actually, Columbia/HCA history suggests that they will fraudulently bill the government, which gets its money from people like you. However, you have to give HCA credit: when they get caught,they will give back some of the money they steal.

That is the legacy of Rick Scott, who used some of the proceeds of HCA’s stealing to kick off a successful political career.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: So go ahead - suspend away!

No, but we’ll bill the insurers and/or relatives …

Actually, Columbia/HCA history suggests that they will fraudulently bill the government, which gets its money from people like you. However, you have to give HCA credit: when they get caught,they will give back some of the money they steal.

That is the legacy of Rick Scott, who used some of the proceeds of stealing to kick off a successful political career.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Making us look bad is the ultimate sin.
We will let patients die to make sure no one says we’re doing a bad job.
We’ll use the law (that we often ignore when it applies to us cutting corners for profit) to justify the punishment so no one will sue us.

We live in an era where multimillion dollar lawsuits are filed over getting less than a 5 star review.
Now with added bodycounts!

ECA (profile) says:

would it be interesting.

2 sides..
Gov. giving money out, hand over fist..
1 hospital group firing??
Others trying to HIRE more.

Why make this all complicated..Truth is truth.
Iv told my friends and family what I think will happen. Its the realistic Time frame for all of this.
you can make an instant drug, without testing safety.
Most drugs are there to alleviate the symptoms, NOT Cure anything. To help you breathe, sleep, NOT cough out a lung, a little Pain relief.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: would it be interesting.

"Fun fact: if penicillin were discovered today, it wouldn’t be allowed."

It would presumably be subject to much more rigorous tested with the light of 100 years of medical knowledge and alternative medication behind it and prescribed much more carefully, but it would still be available I’d say. Its status in history is because of its early discovery and widespread benefits, but had it somehow been discovered after the availability and lessons of other drugs already been known, its status would have been different, especially in its purer forms.

…and yes, Thalidomide is certainly still around. But, it’s a great example of exactly why "miracle" drugs aren’t immediately available on the market. No matter what the thing is you’re trying to cure or treat, you need to make damn sure it doesn’t cause something worse in the process.

ChristTheOtherWhiteMeat (user link) says:

Fraud and crony capitalism

HCA under Dictator Rick Scott now a Senator because FL is an ignorant state full of dumbass MAGA fuctards who cannot see beyond the BS horseblinders the idiot in chief pulled over their eyes! Under Scott HCA had largest Medicare fraud in history….did the CEO get punished? Fuck NO! I worked as contract employee for HCA and honestly no one ever investigates Medicare fraud when it’s the corporate boards…HCA sucks and I have no problem stating the facts!

Pete G says:

Time traveling policy

Congress granted "retroactive immunity" to Telecoms that violated the 4th amendment and federal law by allowing the government to surveil domestic communications without a warrant. The Senate did so by making law time-travel to protect corporate crimes. Jhonna Porter happens to be a unwitting victim of corporate policy time-travel to protect the public from the harm of learning our health care system is in a failing market-bubble period. It saves the public from unnecessary worry that death is a likely outcome from a visit to the medical industrial complex.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Meanwhile, Trump Is Scapegoating The WHO

Trump is trying to deflect blame for his own refusal to take timely action by claiming that the World Health Organization is in league with China. Or something. While it is true China sat on the news for three weeks, the fact remains, the WHO told the whole world at the same time, and other countries were able to take action much sooner, while the US administration kept trying to play down the threat for over two months.

Peter (profile) says:

On the topic of rules ...

Is HCA Healthcare in compliance with all rules regarding workplace and patient safety? The "equipment shortage" mentioned in the article would not, by any chance, refer to lack of protective equipment that puts staff and patients at risk, against all rules?

And expose HCA Healthcare to all sorts of lawsuits once the crisis is over? Perhaps Ms. Porter and her colleagues, and the patients, can find a court open to the idea that some of that 33 bn market cap should go to those who have to suffer because HCA Healthcare failed to protect them adequately.

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