Letters to the Editor

Assertions against WGH nurse are ‘unfounded’ | Letter

Editor,

We live on a beautiful island, but that does not protect us against certain harsh realities such as the difficult and sometimes even violent episodes that are becoming increasingly common in health care.

Nationally, incidents of combative patients who instigate violence against hospital staff have been on the rise and ,sadly, Whidbey General is not immune from this trend.

Violent patients require one-on-one care and may erupt with verbal or physical assault without warning, often requiring physical intervention to protect patient and staff from harm.

We believe that allegations against a Whidbey General nurse, reported by the Whidbey News-Times on May 21, are unfounded. The nurse mentioned in the complaint has more than 30 years of experience, has cared for thousands of patients and has never been accused of any inappropriate behavior toward any patient.

Because of this, the nurse is currently working. RCW 42.46.230(2) provides that the following personal information is exempt from public inspection and copying under the Public Disclosure Act: Personal information in files maintained for employees, appointees or elected officials of any public agency to the extent that disclosure would violate their right to privacy.

Additionally, patient privacy laws prohibit disclosure of any information that includes personal identifying information. Particularly in a small town, even a general description would potentially allow identification of the individual involved.

In Washington state, patients are protected both by federal law (HIPAA) and state law. There is no exception under 45 CFR 164.501-534 that allows disclosure of patient medical information because a complaint has been filed.

Likewise, there is no exception under RCW 42.56.360.

We are willing to cooperate fully with law enforcement, although there has been no known inquiry from the (Coupeville) Marshal’s Office.

While we cannot and will not violate privacy laws to publicly fill out details from this incident, we are confident that our nurse is innocent and that our communications with the press were appropriate and in compliance with all laws.

Tom Tomasino

Chief Executive Officer

Whidbey General Hospital

 

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