BUTNER, N.C. (CBS/AP) Privacy is always hard to come by in any hospital stay, but one North Carolina mental hospital has taken the lack of discretion to a whole new level.
Two state employees were placed on paid leave while allegations are investigated that a partially nude photo of at least one patient was taken with a cell phone at Central Regional Hospital in Butner, NC.
Officials said the employees were sent home last week after the picture of a partially nude male was found on a hospital-provided cell phone, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Tuesday.
Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Renee McCoy said the alleged incident took place at Central Regional Hospital in Butner. The Butner Public Safety Division and the State Bureau of Investigation are cooperating in the probe.
An advocate for people with disabilities said the incident, if true, was a serious violation of privacy rights.
A judge issued a restraining order against the department last year after Disability Rights sued over patient safety and insufficient staffing at the new $138 million hospital in Butner.
"We find it extremely disturbing that after all that has happened we would still be investigating staff behavior that is so clearly inappropriate," Smith said. "These folks are vulnerable. To be put in a position of being exploited by the very people who are supposed to be treating them is unconscionable."
Hospital director Michael Hennike told the staff in an e-mail last week that policy forbids use of cell phones where patients are present.
Less than two months ago, the SBI was asked to investigate reports that staff members at Central Regional's campus in Raleigh had sex with female prison inmates who worked there as part of a labor program. Three male workers lost their jobs and a female worker resigned under suspicion that she improperly helped the inmates set up bank accounts, make phone calls and use e-mail.