For the Governator, this time it's personal.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is looking to terminate all medical-records abuses in his state, after learning that some 30 famous patients at UCLA Medical Center—including his wife, Maria Shriver—had their private files peeked at by an unauthorized hospital staffer.
"Patients' medical records should be private—period," the erstwhile big-screen action star said in a statement after learning of the file snoopage. "No one should have to worry that an unauthorized person is reviewing their private medical records."
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the hospital fired the unidentified hospital employee in May 2007, after discovering the person had been poking around Farrah Fawcett's records at a time when she was receiving treatment for cancer.
According to the newspaper, an internal hospital investigation learned the person also glimpsed files belonging to 61 other individuals between 2006 and 2007—many of them movie stars, politicians and other public figures whose names have not been disclosed.
Dr. David Feinberg, CEO of UCLA Medical Center, apologized for the privacy violations and blamed it on a "rogue" employee who did not work directly in caring for the patients.
The hospital has examined all of the woman's email and phone calls and found no proof that she had not passed any private information to the tabloids.
Still, the unauthorized access opens the door to the hospital being penalized by the state for failing to properly protect its records, courtesy of state and federal privacy laws.
Feinberg, who initially declined to notify those patients whose confidential files were compromised, now says the hospital may reassess that decision as the scandal blows up.
The hospital has come under intense scrutiny after the Times reported that several staffers illegally accessed the private records of Britney Spears during her stint in UCLA's psych ward in late January. Thirteen employees were ultimately fired for the abuses; 12 others also face disciplinary action in the case.
The hospital called that lapse an isolated incident, until the Times unearthed the Fawcett violations. The actress' lawyers have noted that a National Enquirer report about Fawcett's cancer recurrence was published soon after she went in for a series of checkups and before she had a chance to discuss the matter with her son.
Now, California's Health and Human Services has launched a number of probes, particularly since UCLA never informed the agency of either the Spears or Fawcett violations.
"It is not a question of will we take action," said Kim Belshé, the state's Health and Human secretary. "It's determining what level of action to take."
Shriver was unavailable for comment.
But at a press event Monday, Schwarzenegger suggested that even his own medical records have been compromised.
"I have been a victim of this in my own hospital visits," Schwarzenegger said, while light on specifics. "If it was for heart surgery or hip surgery, shoulder surgery, all of those things."
In his case, however, Schwarzenegger said the perps "snuck into the hospital. They had nothing to do with the hospital staff at all. So those things happen."