Tuesday, December 15th Governor Haley Barbour put a message on Twitter stating he was looking forward to hearing the legislature’s ideas on trimming state expenses.
Jennifer Carter, a former administrative assistant for UMC’s nursing school, tweeted the following to Governor Haley Barbour,
“Schedule regular medical exams like everyone else instead of paying UMC employees over time to do it when clinics are usually closed.”
Carter was referring to an incident she heard about three years ago when she claims the Governor came to the Pavilion on a Saturday and had it specially staffed for a check up.
“I wasn’t really jabbing at him. That’s just what people do on Twitter,” said Carter.
Two days later Carter was contacted by UMC’s Department of Compliance for violation of HIPAA Laws.
“I was told I would be suspended for three days without pay until the paper work could be done. I was strongly encouraged to resign,” said Carter. She did resign.
Carter doesn’t believe her Tweet broke any privacy laws that protect patients. Attorney Terris Harris specializes in health care law and does not represent any parties involved. He said just because the Governor is a public figure doesn’t mean his health information can be public knowledge.
“Without a specific statutory exception than any provision of his health care would be in my opinion a violation of HIPAA laws,” said Harris.
Attorneys for WLBT tell us according to federal regulations and the health and human services website, only health-care related entities are covered by HIPAA. Carter never was involved with the Governor’s health care, but was employed by UMC.
“If the Governor wants to do something with the budget and stop job losses, causing a single mom to lose her job eight days before Christmas really doesn’t help the matter,” said Carter.
University Medical Center sent us this statement, “Disclosing a patient’s protected health information is a policy violation that we take very seriously. We will do whatever is necessary to protect the privacy of our patients. An investigation of this matter was pending and the employee resigned, so we consider it closed.”
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The complex management company said that wasn’t true and now she’s being sued for $50,000.
“Its called defamation. If you make a false statement concerning someone else and it tends to be defamatory which means there is contempt, scorn, or ridicule in the statement, you can be sued,” said Charlotte School of Law professor Beau Baez.
Baez says there are two things to remember in order to keep your postings online on the right side of the legal line.
Only one set of eyes, other than the person who is the subject of the posting, has to see that message to open you up to the potential for a lawsuit.
Second, if you re-tweet someone else’s defamatory tweet you could be in trouble too.
“We call those people repeaters. If you repeat a false statement you can be held liable just like the person who passed the initial information. The third and fourth person repeater are equally liable under defamation,” Baez said.
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