After hearing that as many as 40 Palisades Medical Center employees are being investigated – and more than two dozen already suspended without pay – for allegedly leaking Clooney’s and girlfriend Sarah Larson‘s private medical records to the media, the actor threw his support behind the staff.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” Clooney, 46, said in a statement Tuesday. “And while I very much believe in a patient’s right to privacy, I would hope that this could be settled without suspending medical workers.”
Suspicions were raised shortly after the accident when the press had details about the couple’s medial conditions – Clooney suffered a fractured rib and Larson broke her big toe – WCBS 2 in New Jersey reports. Leaking confidential information is a violation of federal law.
According to WCBS, hospital employees who were not treating Clooney themselves accessed his medical records via the hospital computer system, with one security guard going so far as to give out the phone number of one of Clooney’s family members.
Jeanne Otersen, a spokeswoman whose Health Professional and Allied Employees Union represents 700 employees at Palisades Medical Center, said, “It was inappropriate but they are paying a steep price … The apology to him for his privacy rights [is necessary], but I think, in fact, the hospital is overreacting.”
She added that, in some cases, a breach of confidentiality might be something as minor as a hospital employee looking into a computer system to confirm that a particular name is actually in the hospital.
She calls such an action “still inappropriate, but it’s not worth suspending someone’s pay for a month. It doesn’t mean it’s appropriate, but the penalty has to be commensurate with the action.”
As for Clooney, he’s not letting the experience dampen his love of the open road. “I’ve been riding for 30 years, and I’ve had three accidents, which isn’t bad odds. I’ll keep riding,” he said last week.
• Reporting by KATHY EHRICH DOWD