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Report: Cellphones common in operating room where patient says nude photos were taken

Ben Schmitt
| Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, 1:30 p.m.
Washington Hospital is under scrutiny for allegations that a former nurse took and disseminated nude cellphone photographs of Sheila Harosky, when Harosky was having surgery.
Washington Hospital is under scrutiny for allegations that a former nurse took and disseminated nude cellphone photographs of Sheila Harosky, when Harosky was having surgery.
Sheila Harosky, 45, of Charleroi. This was her work identification badge from Washington Hospital.
Sheila Harosky, 45, of Charleroi. This was her work identification badge from Washington Hospital.

Employees at Washington Hospital frequently brought cellphones into the operating room before the Pennsylvania Department of Health investigated claims that a nurse photographed a naked surgical patient, an agency report shows.

The state initiated an unannounced investigation at the hospital in December 2016 after learning of allegations that a nurse used her cellphone to photograph an anesthetized Sheila Harosky as she underwent surgery Sept. 21, 2016, for an incisional hernia. Harosky, 45, of Charleroi, was employed as an operating room secretary at the hospital at the time.

State investigators interviewed employees, including nurse Sharon Bourgo, who was subsequently fired for taking the photos.

“Yes, I see a lot of cellphones in the OR,” one unnamed employee said, according to the Dec. 14, 2016, report.

“I don't take mine in (the OR), but others do,” another employee told investigators.

“We do have our cellphones in our lab coats for break, no one has them out, or we will play music on them,” a third employee said.

Harosky alleges invasion of privacy and medical malpractice, among other claims in the lawsuit filed Dec. 12. She said Bourgo showed her the photos when she returned to work Oct. 31, 2016.

The hospital said in a statement last week that the photos were part of a practical joke Harosky initiated by putting fake intestines on her body before the surgery.“Unfortunately, the object was photographed and that image was shared with (Harosky),” the health system said.

Harosky's attorney, Ken Hardin of Pittsburgh, said the report only bolsters her legal claims.

While she admitted to playing a joke on her surgeon, Dr. Dennis Brown, Harosky said she didn't give anyone permission to photograph her.

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

Brown's attorney has said the doctor, also a defendant in the lawsuit, did not know anyone had photographed Harosky.

State investigators reviewed a hospital document that said Bourgo took a cellphone photo of Harosky's “stomach area which included her private area.” In a follow-up interview with investigators, Bourgo admitted to taking pictures of (Harosky) without permission and admitted to showing the pictures to (two employees),” the report said.

Hardin said the report contradicts Washington Hospital's assertion that Harosky consented in any way.

“For the hospital to say that my client was complicit in any sense is complete nonsense,” he said.

Investigators cited Washington Hospital for violating its own policy regarding employees' cellphone usage.

“Use of cellphones and communication devices for personal reasons is limited during work hours. Employees may use these devices when off duty, on break, or during lunch only in private space away from patients and visitors,” the policy stated. “Devices are not to be used in common work areas visible to non-employees such as lobbies, elevators or hallways — including when walking to or from a work area.”

In a corrective plan, the state ordered the hospital to educate its staff “on the taking of patient photographs. All staff must abide by the policy that requires consent of the patient prior to a picture being taken and the use of hospital equipment to take any photographs. No personal cellphones may be used to take pictures.”

Hospital officials did not return calls Wednesday.

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

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