The suicide of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who attended to Kate Middleton during her hospital stay is both tragic and telling. Saldanha was a registered nurse who immigrated to the United Kingdom 9 years ago and worked at King Edward VII Hospital. She was, by all accounts, a great nurse who took her job seriously. Nurses are the glue that keeps a hospital together. They are the first person a patient sees upon entering a hospital and the last one they see before being discharged home. They accept physicians’ orders, make certain patients receive medication in the proper doses at the right time and in the right place, exam patients, write care plans and make sure that no one “screws up” regarding patient care. They are often overworked and under paid although that situation has been improving of late. And, oh how they are dedicated to their profession.
A radio station in Australia was looking for ratings. So that contacted King Edward VII’s hospital and impersonated the Queen of England in order to obtain private, confidential information about Kate Middleton’s pregnancy. The hospital’s switchboard passed the call onto Saldanha who passed the call onto another nurse who unfortunately, provided the pranksters at the radio station with privileged, confidential information that was then broadcasted worldwide and of course, it went viral. The entire world heard learned intimate details about Middleton’s pregnancy that they had no right knowing. Saldhana took the faux pas personally and ended her beautiful, meaningful life.
While people are pointing figures at the radio station (and rightfully so), we also need to examine the hospital’s lack of security that allowed this breach to occur. There obviously were vulnerabilities in the hospital’s system that unchecked, allowed this egregious mistake to occur. Here in the U.S. we have laws that protect the health information of our citizens and as a result of Saldanha’s death, I’ve come to appreciate them even more. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (aka HIPAA) has a privacy clause that protects our health information and when people violate that law, they pay deeply in terms of fines and terminations. There are hospitals who have violated the rule and have been forced to pay millions and staff members who have lost their jobs. Maybe it’s time the United Kingdom to enact a similar law.
Pregnancy is a private affair and should remain so whether you are a private citizen or a celebrity. The Australian disk jockeys have offered an apology but it will never bring back the life of Jacintha Saldanha.