Lawsuit alleges Sharp Grossmont Hospital secretly recorded women during childbirth and surgery

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa is being sued for allegedly allowing hidden cameras to record female patients who were giving birth or having surgery.

One of the lawsuits is being brought by the doctor who says he was the first to complain about the covert recordings.

Dr. Patrick Sullivan, an anesthesiologist with 20 years of experience at the hospital resigned in January of 2016. He says he was forced to resign, because of intimidation, harassment and retaliation by the hospital when he complained about policies that he said endangered patients.

In his lawsuit against Sharp HealthCare and Sharp Grossmont Hospital, Sullivan says he was the first to report the tiny cameras he saw on anesthesia computer monitors in the operating rooms of the hospital’s Women’s Center. When Sullivan told hospital administrators that the cameras were a violation of privacy, he said he was told that the cameras were activated to catch people who were swiping the painkiller, Propofol from the anesthesia carts.

Sullivan said the investigation was misguided because there was no drug theft. He said in the midst of a nationwide Propofol shortage, doctors were taking the drug from the carts at the Women’s Center to operating rooms in other parts of the hospital.

The hospital said the cameras were installed and operated between July, 2012 and June, 2013. Although the cameras were only supposed to record people taking drugs off the carts, the hospital acknowledged that patients, at times, were also visible and recorded. “We know that not only were some of their faces showing- some of them had their genitals showing. They had some of their births which are supposed to be private moments between mother, husband and baby, filmed by these cameras and by any stretch of the imagination, that is wrong,” Sullivan said.

Attorney Kelsey Ciarimboli who is representing Sullivan in his lawsuit said even after being warned that the practice violated the privacy rights of patients, the hospital refused to remove the cameras. “I believe that the right to privacy in health care for these women is a fundamental right that Sharp should have protected and should have respected – and they betrayed that right,” Ciarimboli said.

When the hospital did not take action, Sullivan said he and other doctors began to cover the lenses of the camera with tape, before performing surgeries.

Sharp HealthCare and Sharp Grossmont Hospital have also been named as defendants in a lawsuit brought by at least 86 women who said they were secretly recorded while they were in the Women’s Center operating rooms. Court papers filed by the women plaintiffs said the hospital recorded approximately 1,800 surgical procedures.

Sharp HealthCare said the cameras were only used for the 2012 to 2013 investigation and have not been used again.

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