Rape investigation blocked by nursing home's HIPAA concerns, authorities say

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Florida authorities say a nursing home is citing privacy laws to impede the investigation of a possible resident rape, according to local news reports.

A 75-year-old woman with dementia was diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease on July 3, sparking concern that she had been assaulted at the Daytona Beach Health and Rehabilitation Center, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.

The facility has refused to give investigators access to records that are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, according to the newspaper. Police should obtain a subpoena for the information, said an attorney for Northport Health Services of Florida, the nursing home's parent company.

A subpoena is not necessary for authorities investigating a possible crime, a state health agency official told the Daytona Beach police. The official said that the facility faces a $50,000 fine for refusing to cooperate, Police Chief Mike Chitwood told the News-Journal.

The facility had not handed over the documents as of July 18. Northport hired an attorney to investigate the possible assault, who told local reporters that he found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Northport had not responded to an inquiry from McKnight's as of press time.

“We plead with this nursing home to ... allow the police to get in there and do their jobs, to determine if a crime was committed, and to arrest any and all perpetrators,” stated Brian Lee, director of Families for Better Care and former Florida long-term care ombudsman.

It is not unheard of for healthcare providers to cite HIPAA in controversial ways, according to an article published Thursday by investigative journalism organization ProPublica. The report focused on the Florida nursing home case as well as incidents at a Missouri hospital and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Daytona Beach Health and Rehabilitation Center is a 180-bed, for-profit facility, according to Nursing Home Compare.

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