Mary Washington Hospital’s “Proprietary Policy”

Donors to Mary Washington Hospital

Dear friends,

Yesterday, I paid a visit to Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, VA. Had a nice lunch in the cafeteria—cold burger and fries. I think the cafeteria may be part of their strategy to drum up business—certainly not the healthiest food around. But in total fairness, I find hospital cafeteria food to generally be very unhealthy just about everywhere. Bizarre, I know.

I was doing some work in the cafeteria when a security guard approached me. He asked me if I was the one taking photos in the lobby. I said I was. He told me it was a HIPPA violation and that I couldn’t take photos. That, of course, set off some alarm bells for me so I asked to speak to the security officer. My concern was that if I could see what was on the walls (I was taking photos of donor lists), then so could everyone else. I felt compelled to report it. But alas, the guard’s manager told me it wasn’t a HIPPA violation after all. Phew.

Then I had a chat with some attorneys in town and decided to return to the hospital lobby to see what else I could learn. This time the security director, Calvin Bostic, came to talk to me. He said that people “had an expectation of privacy in the lobby,” so that’s why photos were prohibited. That struck me as odd. People take photos in hospital lobbies all the time. I also explained that I was interested in what was on the walls, not people. The things on the walls were clearly put there for all to see. In particular, there was a list of people who have left Mary Washington Hospital money in their estate plans. Mr. Bostic told me I was perfectly fine to come in with a pen and paper to write down the names, but it was against policy for me to take pictures. I told him I had already taken the pictures—that’s why they approached me in the first place, and that I had already emailed them off to others. He was a very nice guy, by the way. So, together we walked outside and looked at the polices posted on the door. They said that firearms were not permitted. Nor was smoking. But nothing about photos. He said they had lots of policies that were not posted. When I asked if I could have a copy, since he wanted me to abide by the policies, he said, “no.” The policies were “proprietary” he told me. I guess they consider their no-photography policy to be similar to their prices. They’re proprietary. LOL.  So beware—when you enter a hospital lobby you are subject to secret rules that you are not allowed to know about unless someone chooses to tell you the rules after-the-fact. Hmm…

As we continued to talk, Mr. Bostic asked if I was recording our conversation. I told him I wasn’t, but I was. I lied. I record all of my conversations. Virginia is a one-party consent state. I didn’t need his permission to record our conversation. The recording is just for my own personal records anyway, though my understanding of Virginia Law is that I could play them for you if I wanted to. But you’ll have to ask…

People tend to not speak the truth when they know they are being recorded, so when legal, I find recordings to be very useful. I’m also not sure there’s much of an expectation of privacy in a busy hospital lobby, but of course he told me patients did expect privacy in the lobby. Hmm….

But back to what I was interested in on the walls. What I’m most curious about is why people would leave Mary Washington Hospital in their wills in the first place. People really could donate their money more wisely.

Above is the photo I took before learning of the mysterious, proprietary policy. I did agree not to take any more photos…for now, but if you know the names of the people in the photo, please reach out to them and ask them to rethink their donations. I’ll post the names of all of the donors on the donor wall, too. These are just the people who haven’t donated yet. And I invited Mr. Bostic to join me at the Capital Ale House in Fredericksburg, VA. He seems like the kind of guy I’d like to have beer with. There will be a number of local attorneys there, too.

David Silverstein

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