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Woman says nurse took, shared nude photos of her during surgery at Washington Hospital

Ben Schmitt
| Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, 3:33 p.m.
Sheila Harosky, 45, of Charleroi. This was her work identification badge from Washington Hospital.
Submitted
Sheila Harosky, 45, of Charleroi. This was her work identification badge from Washington Hospital.

Sheila Harosky said a colleague approached her with cellphone photos when she returned to work after recovering from surgery.

“I've got something for your scrapbook,” Harosky said the colleague told her. “It's a little explicit.”

The images showed an anesthetized Harosky on an operating table at Washington Hospital, naked from the ankles up. She was employed as an operating room secretary at the hospital at the time.

“I couldn't believe what I was looking at,” Harosky told the Tribune-Review on Thursday. “I looked up and said, ‘What the hell is the matter with you?' And she thought it was funny.”

Harosky, 45, of Charleroi filed a lawsuit this month in Washington County Common Pleas Court alleging invasion of privacy, medical malpractice and other claims.

Defendants include the hospital; Sharon Bourgo, the colleague who Harosky said showed her the cellphone photos; and Dr. Dennis Brown, who performed an incisional hernia surgery on Harosky on Sept. 21, 2016.

“Washington Health System disputes the version of events that has been published and intends to defend the claim,” the health system said in a statement.

The health system said Harosky precipitated the events that led to the lawsuit “by bringing fake intestines into the OR and requesting that they be placed on her abdomen at the time of the surgical procedure as a practical joke on her friends, coworkers and the surgeon.”

“Unfortunately, the object was photographed and that image was shared with (Harosky),” the health system said.

Brown's attorney, M. Brian O'Connor, said his client was unaware that Harosky intended “to play a practical joke on the operating room staff” and “did not authorize, condone or approve of the taking of this inappropriate photo.”

An attorney for Bourgo did not return a call Thursday.

Harosky said she bought a fake rubber scar at a Halloween costume store and placed it on her stomach before her surgery.

“Dr. Brown is a known jokester, and I thought I'd play a trick on him,” she said. “That's how much I trusted him.”

“It's traumatized her,” said Ken Hardin, a Pittsburgh attorney representing Harosky. “She was treated as a wrongdoer rather than victim.”

The lawsuit says Bourgo, a nurse, was fired for her actions, but Harosky was subjected to harassment from other employees who were angry over losing a colleague. Harosky said she could no longer function in her position after learning that others had seen the photos.

“It got to be too much, I was having migraines and insomnia,” she said. “I had gone to HR to report the photos and they did nothing to help me transfer out of the OR unit. I got the feeling that they just wanted me to keep my mouth shut.”

After reporting the incidents, Harosky asked for a transfer and said she was given five paid days off as a “time to heal.”

She said she was told upon her return that the hospital did not have a new unit for her to work in. Because of stress and continued harassment, the lawsuit said Harosky's doctor recommended that she take a three-month paid leave of absence. The hospital denied her request, and forced her to take unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, the lawsuit said.

Harosky said the hospital fired her through a certified letter when her leave ran out in October.

Washington Health System said it “afforded (Harosky) accommodations to facilitate her return to work, and she refused those accommodations.”

Hardin said he originally filed the lawsuit Dec. 12 with Harosky listed as a “Jane Doe” to protect her identity. When opposing attorneys objected, Hardin added her name to the lawsuit and decided to go public with the allegations.

Harosky worked at Washington Hospital for 16 years.

“I loved my job,” Harosky said. “I worked all those years to get a nice-paying job with benefits and retirement and — because I had surgery there — it's all gone. All because of what was done to me while I was asleep, under anesthesia.”

Harosky and her husband have a son in college and a 6-year-old son who is autistic.

“This has been devastating to our family,” she said.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, bschmitt@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @Bencschmitt.

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