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OFFE Files Formal Complaint Against
Tampa Florida VA Medical Center

January 23, 2008
New Haley privacy complaint filed

TAMPA -- A veterans' group has filed a patient privacy
complaint against the Department of Veterans Affairs
regarding a forum held by U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite
at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa last

The complaint by Operation Firing for Effect, a
Rochester, N.Y., nonprofit group that says it
advocates on behalf of veterans, accuses the VA of
violating patient confidentiality at the Dec. 28 forum
by displaying medical records without prior patient

It's the second complaint about the forum, which
Brown-Waite held to discuss allegations about
unlicensed psychologists at Haley. The first complaint
was filed earlier this month by Jim King, a Republican
political opponent of Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville.

Both the VA and Brown-Waite's office have denied any
breach of confidentiality and called the display of
records at the forum a visual aid.

At the forum, Haley's chief of staff, Dr. Edward
Cutolo Jr., displayed a large pile of patient notes by
unlicensed psychologists. More than 97 percent, he
said, had the appropriate signature signifying a
supervisor had reviewed and approved them.

The actual contents of the notes were not visible to
the audience, and VA officials said nobody
inappropriately viewed them.

Brown-Waite is the ranking member of the U.S. House
Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations. A staff member of that committee said
he confirmed the supervisory signatures on the notes
but did not examine the actual contents.

The newest complaint was filed on Jan. 6 with the
Department of Health and Human Services, which can
look into concerns about a breach of patient
confidentiality at a medical facility. It has not yet
responded to the complaint.

"What makes this more egregious is these files are for
individuals being treated for mental and emotional
conditions and any chance of public exposure is
completely unacceptable," said Gene Simes, who heads
Operation Firing For Effect.

Haley is the nation's busiest VA hospital.

-- William R. Levesque, Times staff writer

January 23, 2008 in Hillsborough | Permalink


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