6. "Don't trust us to keep your private life private."
Patient records are packed with sensitive information that you'd expect hospitalsto keep hush-hush. Tell that to a woman the courts call Jane Doe. Her uterus toreduring an abortion at Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, Ill., in June 2001.She was treated at Saint Elizabeth Medical Center. Days later her snapshot andhospital record appeared on a pro-life Web site. Doe is suing Saint Elizabeth inIllinois state court for failing to protect her medical records. "Somebody gave her hospital records to [pro-lifers]," contends Doe's lawyer Mark Levy. (An attorneyfor Saint Elizabeth declined to comment on the suit.)While patients can usually request that information not be shared on internalhospital networks or that a specific person be blocked from accessing reports,hospitals "may or may not agree with your request," says Joy Pritts, senior counsel of the Health Privacy Project at Georgetown University. While in office,President Clinton issued rules that will require hospitals, starting in 2003, to get apatient's written consent before releasing information to insurers, doctors andpharmacists. The Bush administration, however, wants to change the Clintonruling so that hospitals would not need prior consent.
7. "And you thought you were coming here to get cured."
In the spring of 1998, Jill Cahill was admitted to a Syracuse, N.Y., hospital after being brutally beaten by her husband, James. Six months later he went to thehospital and finished the job (poisoning her with cyanide). Or consider this: InApril 2001, at Savannas Hospital in Port St. Lucie, Fla., a patient allegedly beatto death three other patients and a nurse.Such lowlights highlight the sticky middle many hospitals find themselves in whenit comes to security. "Most people like to see hospitals as an open environment,"says Tony W. York of Hospital Shared Services, a Denver-based health-care-services firm. "I like to see visible security people walking around on patientfloors." He also wants to see both employees and visitors wearing identificationbadges at all times. Worried that an unwanted guest may pay a visit to your room? York says, "The hospital should be willing to accept" a list of people whomyou don't want admitted. How well the hospital enforces it, he adds, is "a wholeother issue."
8. "Our skin banks get depleted -- just when you need them most."
In 1999 Sadie Nolan underwent a dozen operations at University of WisconsinHospital and Clinics (UWHC) in Madison after being severely burned in a car accident. Sadie was in constant danger of not getting the lifesaving skin sheneeded. Two months later she died. Afterward, her mother, Kate, began towonder why there was such a shortage of donated skin. She says she wasshocked to learn that skin donated to Allograft Resources, the tissue bankaffiliated with UWHC, was unavailable. "It had moved on to a for-profit tissue-engineering company," according to Kate. But Allograft President and CEONancy Holland says, "We never received a call to help Kate Nolan's daughter."