WOMEN at an Atlanta-area health center may have received hysterectomies on dozens of their counterparts after an employee performed the procedures as part of a medical exam, according to a nurse who quit the job over fears of harassment and hurt feelings by her superiors.
Brooke Bigley, a lawyer who has represented women at the Fulton County Medical Center in Washington, D.C., said in a statement to the Guardian that a former nurse at the camp-like facility said she had seen women being put on a vaginal ultrasound. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, says each hospital is required to process 99 or more hysterectomies a year, according to its website.
CMS officials did not immediately respond to questions seeking comment Friday.
New information emerged about the program on Wednesday, just days after a nurse at the hospital’s women’s program publicly accused her superiors of viewing photos of her and some other women being unbuttoned to show their breasts during vaginal ultrasounds.
Women who had their left ovaries removed were also allegedly “self-admitted” to having images of themselves done during the exam, the nurse said. The practice had long been encouraged at the medical center but under new leadership in June was suspended pending an investigation, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Georgia Department of Public Health investigated the episode and confirmed the report’s findings, according to the newspaper.
The Fulton County Medical Center has been ranked among the top 200 hospitals in the nation on the nonprofit Reader’s Digest 2017 ranking of America’s Best Hospitals. The hospital reportedly said it does not perform or pay for the procedures, which it said are legal.
Kelsey Lyles, a registered nurse who is a consultant to the facility, told the Guardian that when she complained of problems with how the clinic is run, she was “exposed to retaliation, harassment and discrimination.”
Fulton County Medical Center, a women’s-focused medical center, said it had directed her to delete her photos and emails about the incident.
On Thursday, the Medical Center announced it had fired 33 employees connected to the infection. Pay records show about 5 percent of the hospital’s employees are currently unemployed, said spokeswoman Deborah Butler.
According to Bigley, she believes that some nurses at the center also objected to procedures that do not involve fetal tissue and “determined that the doctor and/or nurse were negligent.” She said she quit because of a claim that female staffers were “beaten up” in an area designated for gender-specific training.
The hospital has acknowledged that misbehavior at the clinic in recent years — however little it might be known, since complaints are rarely reported — is on the rise. In a U.S. Senate committee hearing last month, a Medicare counselor said the number of complaints submitted by women at the clinic doubled from 2016 to 2017.
Butler said Friday the center was working to address any lingering sexual harassment claims.
“At the medical center, we take all allegations of sexual harassment seriously,” she said. “We recognize that this is a difficult issue for all involved and will continue to work with all those in the community affected to address these issues as soon as possible.”