Federal agencies launch investigation into secret recordings at California hospital

CMS and HHS' Office of Civil Rights are investigating Sharp Grossmont Hospital over a surveillance program the hospital used that involved placing motion-activated cameras in operating rooms.

A spokesperson for San Diego-based Sharp HealthCare confirmed the federal investigations, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. In an email to the paper, the spokesperson said that inspectors from the California Department of Public Health visited Sharp Grossmont Hospital last month to investigate on behalf of CMS, and the La Mesa-based hospital is in the process of responding to an investigative request from HHS' Office of Civil Rights.

The federal agencies launched their investigations as the hospital faces nearly a dozen lawsuits over a controversial surveillance program it used several years ago.

Sharp HealthCare officials said cameras were installed on anesthesia carts used in the operating rooms at Sharp Grossmont Hospital's Women's Health Center in 2012 as part of an investigation into whether an employee was stealing drugs. In a public statement issued April 4, Sharp HealthCare President and CEO Chris Howard said the cameras were used from July 2012 to June 2013. Patients who underwent surgeries during that time were recorded without consent.

"Although the cameras were intended to record only individuals in front of the anesthesia carts, others, including patients and medical personnel in the operating rooms, were at times visible to the cameras and recorded without sound," Mr. Howard said.

In his public statement, Mr. Howard apologized and said steps have been taken to ensure a similar situation doesn't occur in the future.

"We sincerely apologize that our efforts may have caused any distress to the women who were recorded, their families, and others we serve," he said. "We can assure you this surveillance method is no longer in use, and we have made changes in our protocols to ensure this situation is not repeated."

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