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NJ hospital suspends 27 over Clooney record snoop

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A New Jersey Hospital has suspended more than two dozen workers suspected of accessing the medical records of George Clooney. The Palisades Medical Centre took the action after the former ER star was taken to the hospital following a motorcycle accident last month.

Clooney sustained a broken rib along with cuts and bruises when his bike collided with a car in the vicinity of Weehawken, New Jersey, on 21 September. His girlfriend, Sarah Larson, fractured two toes in the same incident.

Suspicions that staff snooped on Clooney's medical records and leaked information to the press prompted an internal investigation which, in turn, led to the suspension of 27 workers last week.

Hospital spokesman Eurice Rojas said the workers were suspended for a month without pay over allegations they accessed medical records without due cause or authorisation, a violation of US federal law (specifically the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Medical records at Palisades are kept on both paper and computer.

"We're confident in the system we have in place to protect the privacy of our patients. We have a process in place to protect the identity of the patients. This [reprimand] didn't happen because of the notoriety of the patient. We protect all of our patients," Rojas said, adding that the workers would be welcomed back once their suspension was over. He downplayed suggestions that the 1,200 worker facility would be short-staffed in the interim.

A union rep claimed up to seven of the suspended workers may have been authorised to view the records, local paper the Hudson Reporter writes. The paper adds that a range of workers including nurses, support staff and security guards have been hit by the disciplinary action.

Clooney released a media statement that said although he believed in a patient's right to privacy he hoped the matter could be settled "without suspending medical workers". ®

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