Two state agencies are investigating employee use of Snapchat involving a resident at the M.M. Ewing Continuing Care Center. See Thompson Health response below.

The state Department of Health and state Office of the Attorney General are investigating an incident at the Thompson Health nursing home involving Snapchat. The probe centers on nursing home employees involved in sharing multimedia images and/or messages of a resident via Snapchat at Thompson’s M.M. Ewing Continuing Care Center in Canandaigua.

Snapchat mobile app allows users to share photos, video or messages known as “snaps” with a list of contacts.

At the attorney general’s office, Deputy Press Secretary Rachel Shippee confirmed the investigation. “The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit’s mission includes the protection of nursing home residents from abuse, neglect and mistreatment, including acts that violate a resident’s rights to dignity and privacy,” she stated in response to inquiry from the Messenger after receiving two anonymous tips.

“We are investigating concerns related to this incident at FF Thompson Continuing Care,” stated Jeffrey Hammond, public information officer at the health department. “Ensuring the well-being of all nursing home residents is of the utmost importance of the state health department,” stated Hammond. “We are investigating concerns related to this incident at FF Thompson Continuing Care. As this is an ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further.”

Two people who called the Messenger and identified themselves as employees of Continuing Care said they are disturbed by the use of Snapchat in the nursing home. Both spoke on condition of anonymity saying they were afraid of repercussions because they had been told not to talk.

According to sources, several employees were fired over the incident. Officials from the health department and attorney general’s office have been at Continuing Care including all last week. Some smart phones had been confiscated. Thompson heightened security that involved not allowing employees other than possibly certain supervisors to have smartphones at work.

As of Monday, employees had not been formally notified of what happened. It did not appear that residents or their families had been formally notified, either.

One source said if this had happened to their family member they would want to know about it and if their family member was in a facility where this happened, they would want to be notified right away. The person said Thompson was providing what they called “on-the-spot education” about the seriousness of the privacy breach.

The person described an atmosphere where “everyone is on edge, even if you have not done anything wrong, you are scared of repercussions.”

In January, Thompson was the center of another incident that involved a camera discovered hidden in a hospital restroom. The device concealed in a power outlet was turned over to security. Police said the camera did not contain any images as the memory chip had been removed. Canandaigua City Police Chief Stephen Hedworth said Tuesday there are no new developments in that investigation. Hedworth said his department is not involved in the current case at Thompson involving Snapchat.

The M.M. Ewing Continuing Care Center is a not-for-profit residential health care facility. According to the Thompson website it offers “quality skilled nursing, medical adult day health care and rehabilitation care in a clean, safe and pleasant environment.”

Continuing Care Center has 178 skilled nursing beds on five avenues: Lakeview, Pines, Gardens, Meadows and the Skilled Transitional Unit.

The health department said anyone who has a complaint or concerns about nursing homes should call the Centralized Complaint Intake at 1-888-201-4563. All complaints are reviewed and kept confidential.

THOMPSON RESPONSE

UR Medicine Thompson Health deeply regrets this breach of privacy and lack of respect shown to any affected residents and their families. We are reaching out to the families to personally offer our sincere apologies.

When we learned of wrongdoing by the individuals involved, we immediately reported to the appropriate authorities and are cooperating fully with their investigations. We have no evidence that pictures of our residents were used maliciously or shared publicly outside this small group of individuals. The individuals admitted their actions were wrong and that they had deliberately concealed their inappropriate activity from the residents, their families, and from us. Those implicated have had their employment terminated.

Upon hiring, all staff at M.M. Ewing Continuing Care Center receive training on protecting and respecting resident privacy. This training is reinforced on a continuous basis. These individuals received this training and disregarded it, in violation of our professional expectations and our organization’s corporate culture.

Going forward, we are requiring additional training for our employees on requirements for respecting resident privacy and exploring additional measures to ensure compliance. Thompson Health is firmly committed to ensuring all our staff members provide respectful, compassionate care.