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Sexual Harassment in Healthcare

Healthcare

Recently there has been an article in the News-Press concerning the Hernando County Health Department and its use of drugs for children and adults. The article says, “The public relations campaign that the health department launched about five years ago has fallen flat on its face. “This is although there were definite missteps made. The fact that there was public outrage at the treatment of children in their care should have been a warning sign. However, what fueled the fire was the revelation that one of the district’s doctors, Michael Camarilla, had been convicted of child molestation and served time in jail.

Internal Investigation of the Health Department

There was an internal investigation of the health department by the county sheriff’s office, but no charges were brought. In light of this, the health department conducted its internal review. A former employee of the Hernando County Health Department, however, claims that he was sexually harassed by one of the doctors. According to this employee, the abuse came when a young female patient arrived at the hospital late at night and was held overnight.

Several other employees who did not work at the hospital testified that they saw the woman having sex with the doctor while she was supposed to be receiving care at another unit. When confronted, the doctor said he saw nothing wrong. Then the victim’s mother testified that she had seen her daughter and granddaughter wash utensils in the doctor’s sink. Another former employee said that if something was ever done in front of him, he knew what had happened. If not, he said, he would report it.

Employees

When these employees left the department, the health department sent out a news release saying, “Filing charges were recommended as a final resolution to this matter”. The next day, however, they changed their story. According to the attorney that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the patient, the health department “filed charges against the doctors for engaging in sexual activity while placing the patient in a coma.” They also “charged the physician for using improper medical language when discussing the possibility of an assisted living facility”. Also included in the complaint were charges that the physician violated the statute regarding the invasion of privacy and the right to work independently.

Health Department’s Actions

The attorney for the plaintiff, Mark Wigley, said the health department’s actions “show a gross lack of understanding of its responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy workplace”. In addition, he stated that the charges were “designed to intimidate and harass the plaintiff”. The health department failed to provide adequate warnings that their conduct would result in lawsuits, which is required by law, he said.

According to Wigley, this case is not an isolated incident, as there are numerous similar situations where the health department has been guilty of poor judgment. Many of the same problems exist at HCA hospitals throughout the nation. Unfortunately, the hospital board has so far been unwilling to take corrective action or even provide an improvement plan. According to Wigley, “The County of Hawaii needs to look in the mirror and realize that they are not providing good customer service, but are instead engaging in a pattern of corporate welfare”.

National Association of Medical Professionals (NAMPT)

The lawsuit was brought by the National Association of Medical Professionals (NAMPT), which is an independent professional association for physicians. The association’s purpose is to improve the health care system through licensing standards, supervision, and public education. Medical practices are held to a higher standard than many other professions. “You work in a doctor’s office, but you should know that the surgeon operating on you is not a doctor, even if declaims to be so,” said AMPT Executive Director Paul Perelman. “In the medical industry, you are dealing with patients, and your reputation is at stake. If the health department fails to protect you and the public from harm, that’s its problem”.

According to Wigley, “The Health Department has to take action against their employees, who may have engaged in sexual harassment, as well as the company that employed them. They need to determine who was at fault for the lawsuit and then establish guidelines for their employees to follow to ensure that this type of conduct does not occur again”. Recently, in another case, the plaintiff was awarded $1 million due to a sexual harassment suit. This may not seem like much, but when you consider that less than one percent of claims of sexual harassment filed each year result in settlements or court orders, the amount of money won in such cases can add up to a lot

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