NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Already the subject of an Attorney General investigation and a class action lawsuit, Vanderbilt University Medical Center is also facing a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to a spokesperson for the hospital.
A couple weeks ago, two patients sued VUMC for what they call the hospital’s failure to protect their personal health information after complying with the Attorney General’s request for information.
“We’re very encouraged that the federal government has decided to take a look into the practices that Vanderbilt has engaged in here, and we look forward to seeing how their investigation turns out,” said Tricia Herzfeld, the lawyer representing the patients.
Since last summer, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti has been looking into the hospital’s billing practices related to gender-affirming care.
However, Herzfeld said she is shocked by how much of her client’s information was shared with the AG.
“[P]hotographs of body parts, records of medications, that they’re on different types of mental health treatment they may have had in the past, ophthalmology appointments,” she said.
Skrimetti has called the investigation “run of the mill” and said the investigation isn’t into patients, but rather the hospital.
“The records have been and will continue to be held in the strictest confidence,” a spokesperson for the Attorney General said about the investigation.
Yet, members of the trans community and their loved ones fear that, given the state’s legislation impacting gender-affirming care, this release of situation makes them a target.
“We are being identified. We are being put on lists. We are being targeted for exclusionary legislation constantly. What do you call that? That’s terrorism. That is meant to disrupt, traumatize, and isolate, and if you’re going to run me out of the state, you’re going to run me out with my mouth open,” said Kristen Chapman, the mother of a transgender child.
The Attorney General’s office said they have no comment on this investigation.