2020 has been a long year. Impeachments, protests, elections, and of course a pandemic has battered everyone across the country, and let’s face it, we’re all exhausted. But now, as someone in the medical field, I am seeing people’s private medical information, YOUR private medical information, being shared with governments and private businesses on a daily basis in violation of the law.
I have worked at the front desk of emergency rooms and urgent care for 6 years. I used to love my job. I don’t like it anymore because the only thing that walks through my door anymore is “COVID”. My patients used to come in for things like sinus infections, STDs, flu, migraines, cough, etc, not anymore though. Now, all of those things have supposedly vanished and anyone who walks through my door is to be treated for COVID.
In December of 2019, along with every previous year in recorded history, there was “cold and flu season”. But that all ended with COVID. Every year starting in the fall, our patient load would increase, starting with sinus infections and evolving into flu-like symptoms. We would test for flu A and B along with strep and if you tested negative for everything, then we diagnosed you with “unspecified viral syndrome” and you would get a doctor’s note that said, “John Doe is under my care and can return to work on this date”. Period. No details. Your employer is not entitled to your protected health information, per federal law (HIPAA). You sign an acknowledgment every time you go to the doctor that states we cannot share that information with anyone, including (especially) your employer. But now, that has all changed and your privacy rights have been tossed out the window.
In 2020, a simple sinus infection that you get each year means that you are required by your employer to go to the doctor, get a COVID test, provide your employer with those results, and spend the next 10 days in quarantine. Your rights, as a patient, to refuse medical care is forfeit if you want to stay employed. Your employer has more rights to dictate your treatment than you do. Your employer also violates your rights by requiring you to turn in your test results even though they are prohibited from doing so by law, just like your employer is not entitled to your STD panel or biopsy results. That’s your protected health information!
Meanwhile, we have employers sending their employees down to our clinic in a panic every day. My clinic alone sees an average of 90 patients daily. Most of the patients are not symptomatic and are only getting the test to please their employer because Nancy down the hall said her sister’s granddaughter may have been exposed at school and HR caught wind and now everybody on that floor needs to be tested just so they can go back to work. Of those 90 patients tested, between 0% to 10% test positive.
Now you may think that sounds great, however, if you test negative and have no symptoms, you are still quarantined for 14 days from the day of reported exposure (the day Nancy spilled the beans about her sister’s granddaughter), but, if Greg tells the provider that Nancy told him two days earlier and Greg finds out that everyone else on the floor is off until Monday but his quarantine is up on Thursday, he will call and ask us to change the date of exposure so that he can get his extra weekend off. We tell him, no, then HR calls and asks the same thing. I get this sort of call almost every day. Let me say that again: Just because “someone” claims they might have been exposed to COVID, companies are forcing perpetual mass employee quarantines.
Another thing HR will call me with is to move the quarantine date up so that Brian can go back to work after 8 days instead of 14 because they don’t have enough people to cover the shift because all of Nancy’s floor is off work. They come in to get retested while they’re still in quarantine. YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO STAY HOME UNTIL YOUR QUARANTINE IS UP. But here they are, leaning over my desk, getting upset with me when I tell them I can’t check them in because they’re still quarantined. I don’t care what Bridget from HR said. The CDC said you’re not to be tested while you’re quarantined. Go Home.
Not only do I have employers trying to get us to falsify documents, we also have employers who will not allow their employees to return to work without a negative test. This sounds reasonable, except for the fact that your employer is not entitled to your protected health information! And the CDC does not recommend testing again within 90 days of a positive test because you can continue to test positive even if you’re not an active case for up to 90 days. Employers only care about CDC guidelines when it suits them. So much for “lets follow the science”.
And did you know that employers are randomly sending their employees in for COVID testing? Yes, they do! We have patients who have been tested 6 to 10 times, per their employer. There is an employer who has our swabbers come twice a week to test 20 to 30 employees each time. Mind you, most of these employers are sending healthy employees to be tested against their better judgement, so keep that in mind next time you hear someone complain that there aren’t enough tests. There are plenty of tests. They’re being wasted on healthy patients who are being subjected to tyrannical overreach by their employers.
We turn away legitimately ill patients every day because we can only see so many people in a 12 hour period and well patients who just want to go to work Wednesday are taking those spots. We are not OK with that, but by law, there is nothing we in the medical field can do about it. But, be aware. All of these COVID tests being demanded by employers who then require you to provide the results are violating federal law. Unfortunately, the government is right there with them, stepping on your privacy, perpetuating mass panic, and keeping our economy in a perpetual state of collapse.