This is an urgent message from Jason Paret, CIMC's Chief Executive Officer. It's a notice sent to all of our employees today to address the important issues surrounding patient confidentiality and privacy that we want the community to be aware of as well.
To all Catalina Island Medical Center employees:
It has come to my attention this week that our community is associating rumors, about individuals that have tested for COVID-19, with lack of patient confidentiality with employees at CIMC. The stigma associated with COVID-19 is creating tremendous difficulties for Avalon residents as well as for the clinicians who provide their care.
Respect for a patient’s privacy is central to quality health care and is especially important in the care of patients with stigmatizing illnesses. Maintaining confidentiality helps in establishing trust in the patient-provider relationship and is very difficult in a small community where many people know each other, and many people talk or gossip about others’ business. If confidentiality is breached, by anyone on the CIMC team, this will result in a lack of patient trust in the provider and CIMC. This will develop a barrier to needed ongoing care. For example, a patient diagnosed with COVID-19 might forego necessary labs and medication to avoid being “found out,”.
CIMC staff must practice confidentiality in all patient scenarios. Discussing patient information with anyone will not be tolerated. At CIMC we take a very serious stand when patient confidentiality is compromised and will terminate employment immediately should an employee break this covenant.
I recognize, the current situation with the pandemic is putting pressure on all of us with questions from community members that are looking for private information. It is imperative that we do not respond to their questions and let them know that the only information we can provide is on our website. Any information, other than what we provide on our website, can provide community members with clues as to who may have COVID-19 in our community. This is not only unethical behavior; it is a crime that can result in personal fines and imprisonment from the State and Federal governments.
We must also refrain from conversations and rumors about the health of individuals even when we have not received health related information from outside our organization. As the rumors flow through our community, each of us will be associated with obtaining that information due to working at CIMC.
I have received three complaints this week from community members regarding employees releasing health related information of patients we provide care. This issue is extremely personal to me and it is now my top priority to educate and investigate. I shall be doing the following:
- Investigate each complaint to ensure private health information is not being released from employees at CIMC.
- Each employee shall complete the patient the HealthStream patient confidentiality education module by June 19th, 2020.
- Audit every patient medical record, that has been tested for COVID-19 to ensure CIMC employees are not accessing patient information without a need to know.
- Release this letter to the community of Catalina Island.
We have come a long way regarding patient confidentiality over the past four years. When I began working at CIMC, I heard many complaints regarding patient confidentiality. Over the past two years I have not received many complaints. Those that we have received, we investigated and when confirmed, dismissed the individual from employment. I ask all employees and the community to provide me with information should they suspect patient confidentiality be violated.
Feel free to reach out to me directly or submit your concerns here: