Omaha hospital workers fired over Ebola privacy

AP News
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Posted: Sep 26, 2014 4:26 PM

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska hospital that treated an American aid worker infected with Ebola has fired two workers accused of violating the man's privacy by looking at his medical file.

In a written statement Friday, the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha said an audit of the hospital's electronic medical records led to the discovery that two employees had inappropriately accessed Dr. Rick Sacra's file. The Omaha World-Herald first reported the firings Friday.

The hospital said in the statement that the employees' actions violated federal patient privacy regulations, leading their firing and "other corrective action." The hospital gave no information as to why the employees accessed the records.

"While this is extremely uncommon, we have a zero tolerance for unauthorized access to patient information," the statement said. "In accordance with HIPAA regulations, Dr. Sacra was notified in person and in writing before his departure from the hospital."

Sacra, 51, returned Thursday to his home state of Massachusetts after being successfully treated for the virus he contracted while working in Africa. He was flown to Nebraska on Sept. 5 and spent the next three weeks in the Nebraska Medical Center's special isolation unit, where he received an experimental Tekmira Pharmaceuticals drug called TKM-Ebola for a week.

Sacra also received two blood transfusions from a fellow aid worker who had recovered from the virus. Such blood transfusions are believed to help a patient fight off the Ebola virus because the survivor's blood carries antibodies for the disease.

Doctors have said that the combination of treatments Sacra received makes it difficult to know what helped him fight off Ebola.

Sacra, who has spent much of the last 15 years working in Liberia as a missionary doctor, is one of three American aid workers successfully treated after contracting the Ebola virus in West Africa.

A fourth American with Ebola is still being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Sacra said Friday that he knew what he was getting into when he went to Liberia in early August to treat very ill pregnant women and deliver babies at a time when the West African nation was dealing with an outbreak of Ebola.