The Medical Board of California has dropped drug theft charges against a physician who appears in controversial surveillance videos that Sharp Grossmont Hospital took in a yearlong effort to nab those taking sedatives from its operating rooms.
[one_half][box type=”shadow this-matters”]Patient privacy may have been violated by a Sharp Grossmont video sting designed to catch a drug thief. Those clips reportedly exonerate the one doctor accused, leaving many questioning why Sharp, which now faces a privacy lawsuit, went to all that trouble.[/box][/one_half]
In a document dated Sept. 15, the board left standing two allegations of unprofessional conduct against Dr. Adam Dorin, who left Sharp in October 2013 for a practice in Palmdale. Those non-drug-related charges allege Dorin sent fraudulent emails to the employer of his girlfriend’s husband, to “gain an advantage in her divorce proceedings.” A hearing on those is scheduled for Oct. 17.
Gone are charges that he was seen on camera removing vials of the sedative propofol and other items and placing them in his shirt pocket, and that when he was asked if he took the drugs, he initially denied it.
Dorin’s attorney, Duane Admire, said the Sharp videos he received, apparently by mistake, show that other doctors also took drugs from carts for use in other operating rooms where they were needed.
The hospital hired a video surveillance company to record all surgeries in three operating rooms in the hospital’s Women’s Center from July 2012 to June 2013 in order to determine why sedative drugs were missing from anesthesia carts. Thousands of surgeries, as well as hundreds of staff members and doctors, were recorded during this secret investigation. The Medical Board did not file charges against any other doctor as a result of these videos.
The dropped accusations against Dorin call into question whether Sharp’s surveillance operation accomplished its intent. The hospital now faces a civil lawsuit alleging it violated patient privacy. What’s more, California licensing investigators are checking whether Sharp should be penalized for the video release.
Those privacy concerns stem from Sharp’s distribution of several video clips showing Dorin taking the drugs. But the videos were distributed on a thumb drive that also contained clips showing identifiable patients undergoing surgery, Admire said. Sharp sent those video clips to Admire, who sent them to his client and other counsel.
Sharp has apologized for those breaches and said it would contact each patient they show.
Those video clips show much more than patients’ identifiable faces, Admire said. He said they also include evidence that exonerates Dorin: In some of the clips, other doctors are seen removing medications from those same anesthesia drug carts. In another clip, Dorin takes drugs out of his pocket, where a video showed he had put them earlier, and places them back on the drug cart for use on a patient.
Several other anesthesiologists have insisted that they, as well as many of their fellow doctors, took sedatives like propofol when they were needed for women undergoing emergency C-sections and other procedures. At the time, the drugs were reportedly in short supply across the country.
Admire told Abraham Levy, the administrative law judge hearing the Medical Board accusations against Dorin, that the video clips exonerate his client. That prompted Levy to order Sharp to produce them by Sept. 6.
But Sharp refused, saying it needed more time, among other reasons.
Waste of time
Admire said neither the medical board’s attorneys nor Levy gave a reason why they were dropping the drug charges against Dorin. However, Admire suggested the hospital “realized they could not prove the allegations … after seeing some videos without the exculpatory videos … I think they realized they were wasting their time.”
Dan Gross, executive vice president of Sharp HealthCare, said in an email that his organization is pleased the Medical Board has made progress in the case and supports the board’s decision. He added the video surveillance operation was done “with clear intent to gain insight and information related to missing operating room drugs along with the goal of ensuring that patients, the organization, and community was being protected and well-served.” He declined to comment further because of the civil lawsuit.
Admire said the video surveillance campaign was, from the beginning, designed to go after his client, who had been a whistleblower to a reporter in 2008, “and was not necessarily a team player.”
Sharp’s strategy of using covert video has come under fire even among national hospital security officials who say such strategies can show too much. When knowledge gets out about these stings, it can harm morale, and reveal actions among staff that aren’t serious but nevertheless violate policy. If they reveal anything, it’s often information security officials already knew or could much more easily find out in other ways.
It is not known how much money Sharp spent, or will spend, on the video surveillance operation, legal fees to attorneys or settlement fees to women who join the lawsuit against Sharp should that come to pass.
Dorin “is thrilled that the Medical Board has now dismissed all accusations about missing drugs,” Admire wrote in an email.
“As the discovery and motions relating to the videos played out over the past year and more videos of exculpatory nature were found, it became evident that Dr. Dorin acted in a similar manner that most anesthesiologists did while practicing at Sharp Grossmont. Dr. Dorin never removed any medications from the drug carts that were not either used on patients or returned to the drug carts that day.”