UI Hospitals' Eavesdropping Allegations Spark PR Fiasco

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , March 21, 2011

Ironically, Stellmach was on the search committee. “The charge to the committee was we want to find someone who is going to help change the culture here. And this is the very first action that comes out from the new HR position. It’s disheartening because it looks to us like its business as usual,” he says.

Wessels and Jean Robillard, MD, the vice president for medical affairs, issued an apology – sort of – in an Intranet memo to health system employees that reads:

Local media have reported that a supervisor at UI Hospitals and Clinics placed a baby monitor in a work area. Upon discovery of the monitoring device, it was promptly removed. A thorough investigation is presently underway. As part of this investigation, it has been determined that no conversations were transmitted. In addition, there is no evidence of any HIPAA violation. UI Health Care regrets this extremely unfortunate situation, which is not in keeping with our organization’s values or sound supervisory practice.

It’s a start -- sort of -- but it may be time for UI leadership to do a little soul searching and ask itself tough questions. For starters, they should ask themselves how a manager at the health system could ever conceive that spying on employees was appropriate. It does appear to be an isolated incident of bad judgment, but does it also reflect some deeper issues with trust and engagement at UI?

 “We are just regular working folks, but we aren’t dumb and we weren’t born last night,” Stellmach says. “We know what happened and it’s a shame that they didn’t just fess up and say ‘this happened and we are sorry.’”

The baby monitor scandal may not reflect the reality at UI, but it reflects the perception. 

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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