UCLA Medical Center will fire some employees and discipline others for snooping at the confidential medical records of Britney Spears, who was hospitalized in its psychiatric ward, a hospital official told The Associated Press.
Jeri Simpson, the hospital’s director of human resources who was involved in the investigations of the confidentiality breach, confirmed the action but could not say how many employees were affected. The hospital did not say when the snooping took place or which of Spears records were looked at.
The Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site Friday that the breaches occurred during Spears most recent hospital stay. While the disciplined employees were unable to access her psychiatric records, they did look at non-psychiatric records from her previous visits to the medical center, the Times reported.
The newspaper said more than 13 employees, none of whom are doctors, would be fired. Twelve others, including several doctors, will be disciplined otherwise for looking at her computerized records, it reported.
There is no evidence that any employee leaked or sold the information about Spears, who is a tabloid favorite, according to the Times. Still, such snooping is a violation of state and federal medical privacy laws and the state Department of Public Health had opened an investigation of the hospital, the newspaper reported.
“It’s not only surprising, it’s very frustrating and it’s very disappointing,” Simpson told the newspaper, adding that she felt “horrible” that it happened again.
Spears was admitted to the hospital twice in January under a state law allowing patients to be held against their will for up to 72 hours for evaluation if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others. On her second trip to the medical center, Spears stayed for nearly a week.
Leading up to the hospitalizations, Spears had been behaving bizarrely. She shaved her head, was seen in public without underwear, ran over a celebrity photographer’s foot and attacked a vehicle with an umbrella.
After her Feb. 6 release, a judge placed Spears and her estate under a temporary conservatorship. Conservatorships are granted for people deemed unable to take care of themselves or their affairs.
Spears has since had very limited contact with her toddler sons who are under the sole physical and legal custody of her ex-husband Kevin Federline.