Hospital Sued Over Secret Cameras in OR

Anesthesiologist alleges clandestine surveillance

The former chief of anesthesiology at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in San Diego, California, has alleged in a lawsuit that the facility reinstalled secret video cameras in operating rooms (ORs) to record hundreds of surgical procedures without the consent of patients or clinicians. Dr. Patrick Sullivan says he found cameras in the hospital’s three Women’s Center ORs, in all 12 main ORs, and in six ORs at the Sharp Grossmont Surgical Center.

In 2012–2013, Sharp Grossmont had embedded video cameras in OR monitors to catch potential drug diverters among OR staff. Last year, the hospital came under fire after video clips of women undergoing obstetric surgery became public. According to Sullivan, the cameras were reinstalled in January 2016, before the video clips were released.

In an email to Investigator Newsource, a hospital spokesman denied that the hospital had reinitiated video surveillance.

“New laptops were installed in the ORs in support of SurgiNet, a perioperative and anesthesia information system,” he wrote. “Like all new laptops, they came with built-in cameras; however, software was never installed on those laptops to activate the cameras. No surveillance occurred.”

Sullivan resigned in early 2016, claiming in his lawsuit that he was forced to leave his post. In an interview, he conceded that he had no proof that the alleged cameras were recording patients, but he said it’s logical to think so because similar cameras were installed when the hospital approved secret recording in its Women’s Center operating rooms in 2012 and 2013.

At that time, an anesthesiologist was identified on camera putting sedatives in his shirt pocket, but he wasn’t disciplined because he successfully argued that the critically needed drugs were in short supply, and he needed them for other patients.

According to the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS), secret cameras are not a particularly effective way to handle drug diversion or other staff problems. Moreover, using cameras could come back to bite hospitals, as those cameras could also record footage that could be used in malpractice suits.

Source: Investigative Newsource; February 2, 2017.