Hey, guess what, Chris Higgins? You are no longer the most reviled St. Louisan on Facebook! Your reign was short, though intense, but the torch has now been passed to Dr. Amy Dunbar, an OB/GYN at St. John's Mercy Medical Center in Creve Coeur (aka the Baby Factory), who had the sheer, unmitigated gall to complain to her friends on Facebook about a patient who was three hours late for an appointment. Not just an ordinary checkup, mind you:
Dunbar's friends, many of whom are doctors or RNs, responded sympathetically, albeit crudely, suggesting that the mother-to-be was perhaps hitting up the drive-thru or the bar. It should be noted that the only comment Dunbar made to the thread was to explain that she had not cancelled the appointment because the patient had had a prior stillbirth.
Unfortunately for Dunbar, her Facebook feed was not as private as she thought.
Within days, members of the Mercy Moms to Be Facebook group got wind of Dunbar's post -- and a second one which read, "Nothing I'd rather be doing at 4 a.m. than a circumcision. ;-)" -- and pulled out the social media pitchforks, tar and feathers.
Why Heather Tiedemann, who lives "near Port Hueneme, CA" and who is not nor has ever been a patient of Dunbar's, felt the need to comment remains unexplained.
Nonetheless, someone from Mercy responded to Tiedemann's complaint assuring her that the hospital was taking her concerns seriously:
Our physician leadership has already called Dr. Dunbar. Her comments were definitely inappropriate. We are also reviewing them to determine if they violated privacy issues, etc. That process requires a more thorough review, but we will determine the appropriate response as quickly as possible. In the meantime, know that our physician organization holds its members to the highest standards and strives to improve our service and clinical care through that process.
All of which led to a nearly-Talmudic debate on Tiedemann's thread about whether Dunbar had violated HIPAA law, plus a soupçon of additional outrage about the fact that the Mercy Facebook site is "Moms to Be" instead of just "Moms" and about Dunbar's circumcision comment. (It is illegal to circumcise a minor! Except, of course, when his religion mandates it.)
Mercy concluded its investigation and has issued this statement:
Mercy values the dignity and privacy of all our patients and we are very sorry that this incident occurred. While our privacy compliance staff has confirmed that this physician's comments did not represent a breach of privacy laws, they were inappropriate and not in line with our values of respect and dignity. Mercy holds its physicians and other co-workers to high standards in ensuring the protection of patient information. We cannot comment on specific disciplinary actions, but we will use this as an opportunity to reinforce our standards through additional education of our physicians and co-workers, including appropriate use of social media.
Dunbar, it is perhaps needless to say, has been advised not to make any further comments and instead direct interested parties to the Mercy PR department. And, perhaps more importantly, she's since made her Facebook page private.
Let this be a lesson to all of us.