LOS ANGELES – UCLA Medical Center has known since at least 1995 that its workers were improperly looking at confidential medical files of such prominent patients as Tom Cruise, a former employee claims.
James Duckstad, a former hospital assistant at UCLA, told the Los Angeles Times he was one of a group of workers fired in 1995 for records snooping. He said they looked at computerized medical files of celebrities including actors Cruise and Dom DeLuise.
"It was news throughout the whole hospital that employees were fired for screwing around in the computer," said Duckstad, who claimed his motive was boredom while on the night shift. "This was in 1995, and here we are 13 years later -- and either they didn't follow the policy or people didn't take it that seriously."
The head of the UCLA Hospital System, Dr. David Feinberg, said the breaches are being taken "extremely seriously. If we failed in the past," he said, "we will do everything we can to improve our systems."
Earlier this week, former administrative specialist Lawanda J. Jackson confirmed she peeked into the medical records of more than 60 UCLA patients in 2006 and 2007.
Among them were California first lady Maria Shriver and actress Farrah Fawcett, who is battling cancer. Details about Fawcett's medical treatment later showed up in the National Enquirer.
Jackson resigned from the hospital last May as it was preparing to fire her. Jackson said she was just being "nosy" by looking at the records and did not leak any information.
The secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, Kim Belshe, said her agency is "very concerned about what appears to be a pattern of repeated violations."
The state will be taking action against UCLA, she said.