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Guardian Photographer’s Photo of Hospital Parking Attendant Gets Her Suspended

© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

Be careful who you let photograph you on the job… you might get suspended. That’s what happened to a woman named Debbie Heald who, last week, was put on “administrative suspension” after a photographer from the local Guardian newspaper snapped her photo for an article.

Taken by Brian McInnis, the photograph in question shows Heald presumably taking the parking ticket for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada where she is currently working, albeit technically employed by an outside contractor.

The image seems harmless enough, but when it appeared in the April 24th edition of the newspaper, Heald was notified that she would be suspended without pay until an investigation could be completed.

The reasoning? According to Peter Kramers, the CEO of the contracting security company Heald is employed for, “[her suspension was] related to hospital and corporate policies about contact with the media.” Beyond that, Kramers said he was not able to speak further on the situation.

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The good news is that Heald has since had her job reinstated and will be paid for the shifts that she missed during the suspension, but even then, she will be given a verbal reprimand, presumably because she allowed McInnis to take her photo and didn’t direct him instead to the hospital’s media contact.

Both Heald and her husband were dumbfounded upon finding out about the suspension, and maintain even now that they don’t believe she was ever in the wrong, and that the situation could have and should have been handled much better than it was.

Who do you think was in the wrong? Heald for not complying with hospital policy? McInnis for not going through the proper channels to get permission? Or the hospital and the outside contractor for handling the situation the way they did? Let us know in the comments.

(via The Guardian via Reddit)


 
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  • Mike Swiech

    I am sure that the policy for her being suspended pending investigation falls under the contractor not the hospital. I am certain that the hosptial would not be suspending say a Dr. Or Nurse if it was their photo taken and posted as the union would have a field day of they suspended without pay or that Dr. might decided they would move there practice elsewhere, but rather it was a outside contractor they have there own rules. They pay minimum wage and they treat there empolyees like a dime a dozen.So for them to suspend was there policy not the hospitals.

  • Mike Swiech

    Sorry but i have already. Same thing at accident scene, as well as threats. What is the worse they can do.Ask you to stop. If you are outside (again not in the hospital) you are free to take what ever photo’s you see fit. They (security) can ask you to leave the parking lot, but most parking lots are near public side walks and have the same view of traffic coming in and out they can not do or say nothing about it. There is nothing, not even the police can do once you are on that public sidewalk you can take whatever you like. The only thing the police may get you for is loitering but as long as you are not obstucting (standing in the same place) the public you are fine as well. Sorry, again your point is mute as this photo was not in the hospital but rather parking lot that is accessiable to the public as a whole.

  • Nancy Hall

    The grounds of the hospital are private property regardless of who owns the place. Hospital staff are entitled to establish rules for their property. I’d be willing to bet that 99% of hospitals in north America have similar policies. They have to if they’re going to be compliant with federal laws in the U.S. and Canada.

  • Nancy Hall

    The parking lot belongs to the hospital. There are patients in the parking lot. The fact that they are patients at the hospital is restricted information. You can argue all you want, but the law is the law. Why not follow my earlier suggestion and try going to a hospital with a camera, snapping photos here and there. Let everyone know how long it takes before you’re ejected by hospital security.

  • Nancy Hall

    A hospital isn’t a public place. There is an assumption of privacy for hospital patients and there are laws that protect patient privacy.

  • Nancy Hall

    Your example is irrelevant. This story is about an incident that took place on the grounds of a hospital. The parking lot and the ticket booth are hospital property. Hospitals can establish rules for employee conduct and they can establish rules for conduct on their own property.

  • lorenmooney

    Hospitals are on private property. If someone is on public property looking across the private property, they have the right to interact with the photons that reach them in a public place. Under private property laws, the private property owner can restrict what someone does on that property, but not what they do off of it. In this case, the photographer appears to have been on private property, so he should have followed the private property owner’s rules. If the photographer was on public property though, then he/she could legally and morally take the picture they took. But either way, the guard should not have been punished.

  • Nancy Hall

    There’s also a section about search seizure as there is in the U.S. Constitution and the Canadian equivalent. The 4th Amendment is another section of the U.S. Bill of Rights that has been used to defend the right to privacy. There is nothing in any of these documents that allows people to trespass on private property or otherwise violate other people’s privacy for the purpose of gathering information. The only exception is when the police go to court and obtain a search warrant.

  • Mike Swiech

    Ok, and would you be making the same stink if it was from the sidewalk or street the picture was taken at?

  • Mike Swiech

    Who as tresspassing here? No one. Period.

  • Mike Swiech

    You said to provide an example and which I did and you say its irrelevant. Don’t ask for things if you just want to say things are irrelevant. Yep the may be, but he can move a few feet away and take the same photos of the same person and I bet ya it would be the same outcome for her.

  • Mike Swiech

    Already did and you said it was irrleavant. Again public domain and your right as a photographer (pro, semi or ametaur) allow that right. Don’t like it Oh well.

  • Nancy Hall

    You’ve gone to a hospital with a camera and taken photographs on the property in plain sight of staff and security?

  • Nancy Hall

    You’re not making any sense. The ticket taker was disciplined for violating hospital policy by allowing herself to be photographed. Unless he was hiding the camera, she knew she was being photographed. That’s clear form the picture.

  • Nancy Hall

    There’s a difference between photographing people in public and photographing them on private property. Why is this distinction so difficult for you to grasp?

  • Nancy Hall

    I’m stating the facts. You can’t do as you please on hospital property. The sidewalk and the street are public.

  • http://mikeshouts.com/ Mike Chua

    To be fair. We were all not there. So we really don’t know if she knew she were being captured on camera and even if she did know, she wouldn’t know it will make the paper. She’s just a ticket person trying to do her job and wouldn’t know the journalist was actually a journalist. I am sure ticket attendant don’t ask for id, do they?

  • Nancy Hall

    I’ve worked in hospitals for the past 40+ years. My facts are straight. Parking lots are part of hospital property. This woman is clearly taking a ticket from someone entering or exiting the parking area, so this is a paid lot. It isn’t public parking.

  • Nancy Hall

    VA hospitals are publicly funded. So is Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto, I would imagine. Here’s their media policy. You could check the media policy for every hospital in the U.S. and Canada, and it’s going to be pretty much the same:

    “Media must arrange all interviews and photo shoots in advance with a Mount Sinai press officer. Please call (212) 241-9200 to speak with an officer.

    Patients who agree to be interviewed or filmed at the hospital must provide written consent to a Mount Sinai press officer before the interview or filming takes place.

    No patient information will be provided to the media unless consent is received in writing and is signed by the patient or his or her legal guardian.”

  • Mike Swiech

    How hard is for you to grasp that there would need to be signs posted stating no photography, or the owner, reps, and/or security asking to stop. So even though its private with public access there needs to be signage and/or verbal queue’s advising as such.

  • Mike Swiech

    Actual it is public parking as anyone can park there. The only time it won’t be is if its a restricted facility that doesn’t allow public access. Hospitals allow public access.

  • Mike Swiech

    Yes I have. Again asked and answered. Just like you can go into a police or fire department and take photographs (unless there is signage advisng otherwise or asked by personnal to cease and desist) Whats the worse thing that can happen. They can ask you to stop what you are doing. You can nod your head, comply and be on your merry way.

  • Mike Swiech

    Actually you are wrong in regards to PIPEDA It states as outlined below:

    Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act:
    An Act to support and promote electronic commerce by protecting personal information that is collected, used or disclosed in certain circumstances, by providing for the use of electronic means to communicate or record information or transactions and by amending the Canada Evidence Act, the Statutory Instruments Act and the Statute Revision Act
    4. (1) This Part applies to every organization in respect of personal information that
    (a) the organization collects, uses or discloses in the course of commercial activities; or
    (b) is about an employee of the organization and that the organization collects, uses or discloses in connection with the operation of a federal work, undertaking or business.
    (2) This Part does not apply to
    (a) any government institution to which the Privacy Act applies;
    (b) any individual in respect of personal information that the individual collects, uses or discloses for personal or domestic purposes and does not collect, use or disclose for any other purpose; or
    (c) any organization in respect of personal information that the organization collects, uses or discloses for journalistic, artistic or literary purposes and does not collect, use or disclose for any other purpose.
    5. (3) An organization may collect, use or disclose personal information only for purposes that a reasonable person would consider are appropriate in the circumstances.

    What patient information is being released or collected by even walking into a hospital?

  • Nancy Hall

    It’s private property. You don’t have the right to trespass on someone else’s property. You have to ask permission to photograph on someone else’s property.

  • Nancy Hall

    Look up the definition of trespassing.

  • Nancy Hall

    No, that wouldn’t be a common practice. The woman was suspended because she violated hospital policy. An investigation was conducted to see whether she did this knowingly. I’m assuming that they found that this was not a deliberate violation as she was not fired and she was given the pay she would have earned had she not been suspended. This is equivalent to being suspended with pay. She was given a reprimand, which is the hospital’s way of documenting that she has been advised of the hospital policy. I don’t see what’s wrong with the way this was handled. .

  • Nancy Hall

    You gave an example about taking pictures of an accident that took place in public, not about photos taken on hospital grounds.

  • Mike Swiech

    Wow…you really don’t get it do you. You are not tresspassing unless you are staying after you’ve been asked to leave. SMH :S

  • Mike Swiech

    Again What if the tables were turned and it was Dr. or Nurse photographed, they would NOT be suspened without pay pending an investigation. The only reason they reinstated her was more then likely due to media coverage of the incident. Other than that they would have likely let her go for violations and found anouther minimum wage worker to replace.

  • lorenmooney

    How do you allow someone to take your picture? And how do you prevent it? I guess she should have pulled a gun and shot the photographer to prevent him from taking her picture. The hospital was wrong to punish the guard.

  • lorenmooney

    “This begins and ends with the absolute right of hospital patients to privacy.”

    Then I guess it ends pretty quickly, because there is no “absolute right”

  • Nancy Hall

    It’s pretty clear that I’m the only one posting who has even the foggiest idea about hospital culture. The right of hospital patients to privacy is about as absolute as it gets. There is a vast web of laws that reinforce the right of hospital patients to privacy. Hospitals that do not protect their patients from people like you are in serious trouble. The fines and other sanctions are considerable. That’s why hospital employees are instructed not to interact with members of the media and why they are disciplined if they violate hospital policy.

  • Nancy Hall

    Hospitals do not, generally, police their parking lots unless they cater to the rich and famous. However, everyone from the parking lot attendants to the security guards to the nurses will spot people who appear to be loitering. When spotted, these people will be asked to state their business and, if they have no business with the hospital, to leave.

    Both loitering and trespassing are criminal offenses, so just hanging out taking pictures could garner some charges. Anyone who refuses to leave, would likely be charged with disorderly conduct on top of loitering and trespassing. If someone spots you taking pictures, security could detain you until law enforcement arrived. Your camera and photographs could become evidence in an investigation, meaning they could be confiscated.

    You are correct that the general public is not expected to protect patient privacy, but the hospital has a legal obligation to do so. That’s the crux of the matter. Because a photograph of a patient on hospital grounds violates confidentiality, that obligation extends to photography on hospital property. Medical facilities are not as strict as psychiatric hospitals, but I believe that general hospitals do have measures for safeguarding patient identity. In any case, there is a psychiatric hospital on the grounds of the QE complex in PEI.

    If the parking lot belongs to the hospital, then it is hospital property and not public. Because the hospital has a legal obligation to maintain privacy, it has rules regarding media contact on its property…all of its property including the parking lot, booths in the parking lot, etc. All media contact has to go through the person or people designated as media liaisons.

    All employees are required to be familiar with the media policy. That’s standard procedure for training hospital employees everywhere. The parking lot attendant was suspended because she violated hospital policy. It doesn’t matter whether there were patients in the background or not. Any hospital would do the same. Many, if not most, would have gone on to fire her. No employee is worth the kinds of fines and settlements they could have to pay over a breach of confidentiality. If an employee cannot be trusted to follow hospital policy, she can’t be trusted to work there.

    The idea that laws need to be posted to have legal weight is ridiculous. Do you see all the motor vehicle laws posted at intersections or laws about murder, rape and theft posted on city streets? It’s your responsibility to know the laws pertaining to your activities. In the U.S., at least, ignorance of the law has no legal weight so if you violate trespassing and loitering laws, it doesn’t matter whether you were aware of them or not.

  • Light & Matter

    Nancy, perhaps it will be more clear if I state it with simple, numbered facts:

    1. US and Canadian laws allow photography from all public property AND private property that is accessible to the public, UNLESS:

    (A) there is an expectation of privacy, such as in public restrooms or dressing rooms, or

    (B) if there is a posted regulation specifically forbidding photography, or if you are told by someone with authority (the property owner or their agents, in the case of private property) to cease taking pictures.

    2. A parking lot (even at a hospital) is not a place where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, but particularly as an employee stationed to interact with visitors.

    3. There is no indication that this hospital had posted it’s policy of forbidding photography in the parking lot, and we have no indication that the photographer was told not to take photographs by the guard… in fact, we have reason to believe otherwise.

    :: Therefore, the photographer was well within his rights to take a photograph of the parking lot attendant.

    Hospitals may have policies against photography to help protect their patients, but unless they post them, they are at fault for not enforcing them, ACCORDING TO THE LAW.

    Trespassing laws work the same way on private property that is open to the public. If I walk into my local Safeway during business hours I can NOT be charged for trespassing unless I have been ordered to leave, despite the fact that it’s private property. This is true weather I’m planning on buying groceries there or not.

    So, if I smuggle a camera into a hospital and start secretly taking pictures of employees, you’re standing by the opinion that all of those employees should be fired?
    Hopefully not, if those employees did not consent to being photographed.

    Nobody claimed that all laws need to be posted. In this case, though, the law expressly ALLOWS photography in public areas UNLESS other regulations are posted.

  • Elliott Whitlow

    You can’t be serious..
    what could she have done? Tell him no? He couldn’t be stopped from taking the picture. This leads me to the point where you should take photos of every staff member you see until security actually forces you off the property and see if they suspend everyone or just those they feel they can push around..
    If this woman even remotely initiated this they might have a point, but this is absurdity..

  • Elliott Whitlow

    Nancy, they can set policy, sure, but policy is NOT LAW. Nor can it be elevated to law. So while they may have a policy their ability to MAKE you follow it is extremely small, they can demand you leave the private portions of the property but they cannot make a SINGLE demand about the pictures themselves. The fact that there might be a psych ward is immaterial to the discussion and doesn’t help your argument.
    As an additional point he could have been IN the hospital common areas and the laws wouldn’t support anything more than them asking him to leave.
    In short, POLICY is not law, your ability to enforce policy is predicated ENTIRELY on the willingness to comply. You don’t have the power to force compliance. What I mean by that is that if someone doesn’t want to comply they can be forced to leave, DONE, but the power generally ends there..
    To push the issue even further, you can photograph anything you can see from the public property even if what is photographed is on private property..

  • Elliott Whitlow

    I have to take issue with part of your post at least as it would be in the US.

    “(B) if there is a posted regulation specifically forbidding photography, or if you are told by someone with authority (the property owner or their agents, in the case of private property) to cease taking pictures.”
    Such a policy has no force in law, they can tell you to stop but that order has NO power behind it. Policy is not law. Their ONLY recourse is to demand you leave. But there is nothing illegal about recording the ENTIRE time. You are not trespassing until told to leave and you refuse to, also until you are told to leave explicitly you are not trespassing, I make this distinction because of this phrase “you can turn off the camera or leave”, it isn’t a leave order.
    There are VERY few places where such a policy would have any force and off the top of my head ALL of them are state and federal installations. No private entity can make it illegal.

  • Nancy Hall

    I am absolutely correct that the hospital has a right to enforce its own policy with employees. Debating the point is just silly. All businesses have policies that they expect their employees to follow and they impose consequences for those who violate policy.

    The fact that the ticket agent does not appear to have told the photographer to stop taking pictures is what got her into trouble. She appears to have cooperated with him.She didn’t have the authority to make that decision.

    As far as the rest goes…I believe that a hospital is a place where people have the expectation of privacy. It is not the same as a Safeway. That’s an idiotic analogy. People in hospitals are sick, injured, disfigured, in pain, whatever and they expect to be treated with dignity and privacy.

    You seem to disagree, so why don’t you put your money where your mouth is. Go ahead and start openly taking pictures on hospital property and see what happens. I think you should just walk right into the lobby and start snapping away.

  • Elliott Whitlow

    I agree it was mishandled by the hospital but I have to COMPLETELY disagree she violated the policy. For you to violate a policy you have to have some power in the equation, she was sitting there doing here job as required. Someone took a picture without consent (not that any was legally needed). What could she do? They way you are thinking it is possible for me to do EVERYTHING right and still get into trouble for something I didn’t have any part in or the power to prevent. I’m sorry but that logic is quite problematic to justify. After the picture was taken she could have directed them to media relations but what would that have changed? They already had the picture.

  • Nancy Hall

    A nurse would probably be fired. Any well trained nurse knows not to violate hospital media policy. Doctors are a different story, because they’re so valuable to the hospital, but I really can’t imagine a doctor allowing him or herself to be photographed at work. If you tried photographing a doctor without permission, you’d probably have your camera smashed.

  • Mike Swiech

    Then that would be grounds for assault and civil damages. There are a lot of well trained security guards too, but again they took from the inside of a car leaving a parking lot. So you are trying to tell me a nurse would likely be fired, but this security guard was only suspended without pay (received after the fact) I am sure the union would have a field day if they tried to fire said nurse.

  • Light & Matter

    *sigh* I’m a professional photographer… I’ve taken countless pictures in and around hospitals… always openly. Here’s one I shot in a Seattle cancer center…

    But I’m not an as*hole… I don’t take pictures of people who are going through a rough patch without their permission.

  • Nancy Hall

    If you’re on private property and refuse to leave after being asked, then you’re trespassing. At that point, hospital staff would call the police. I imagine they would also do their best to make sure you didn’t take any more pictures. I can also pretty much guarantee that anybody trespassing on hospital property wouldn’t get much sympathy from the police.

    Hospital policy is for staff, not the public. Policy is generally more restrictive for psychiatric hospitals than it is for general hospitals, because of the stigma attached. It’s unlikely that a patient would lose a job, for example, because he had his appendix out; but he might lose his job if it was known that he was treated for substance abuse. That makes breaches in confidentiality far more serious at psych facilities. The fact that there is a psychiatric hospital on the QE grounds makes the ticket lady’s violation more serious.

  • Mike Swiech

    Well I hope that you give the lady a little bit more regard then referring to her as a “ticket agent” as she is a security officer and she’s posted at a ticket station. How do you know she did or didn’t ask the photographer to stop? Where you there, how can you tell by the photo? How was she to know they were with the media. It could have been anyone with a camera or cell phone and snap said persons picture. Yep the paitents have an expectation of privacy and that is there medical history, diagnosis, treatment is to be kept private, but them coming and going has no barrier. Why do you say its idiotic analogy, cause you say so? No one said anything about going into the hospital….this has been expressed a ton of times in previous posts. They are in an area outside. Not in the hospital. Even if in the hosptial like the previous commentor made. the most they can do is to ask you to stop, and you do not have to stop, but they can then ask you to leave and if you don’t leave then that is where law is being broken. SMH

  • Mike Swiech

    That is a pretty bold statement to make, to assume that you are the only one posting about hospital culture.

  • Nancy Hall

    There are several cancer hospitals in Seattle. I looked at Hutchinson. Here’s their media policy, which clearly states that photographers and videographers have to be accompanied by media staff. If I guessed the wrong hospital, I’m sure the one you visited has the same policy. If you walked around without escort, then you got away with a nice shot and you were lucky. If a hospital employee assisted you in any way, he or she could be fired. If you’re not an as*hole, that’s nice but you can’t guarantee that this is true of other photographers lurking in hospital lobbies.

    “Media Relations guidelines

    All media inquires related to activities at the Hutchinson Center or SCCA must go through Media Relations so the information request can be promptly assessed and facilitated.

    Reporters, photographers and videographers must be accompanied by a member of the Media Relations team while on the Center’s campus. Such visits must be arranged in advance in order to make sure the visit goes smoothly for all involved.

    The Media Relations team is committed to guarding the privacy and confidentiality of SCCA patients while recognizing their rights to discuss any and all aspects of their care and health status with members of the news media. All patients who are interviewed, filmed or photographed by the news media while on our campus must sign a release form, available from Media Relations. Written consent also must be obtained from all current and former patients before any information about their case can be discussed by faculty or staff with members of the news media.”

  • Nancy Hall

    Have you ever had a job? All workplaces have policies. Like virtually all hospitals, this one had a policy to the effect that contact with media has to go through the media office. She was clearly cooperating with the photographer, which was her first mistake. If her employer found out about the picture when it was published, that means she didn’t tell anyone that she’d been photographed on the job. That’s her second mistake and it’s the one that makes it look like she was colluding with the photographer.

  • Elliott Whitlow

    I don’t dispute that if you are ordered to leave and don’t you are trespassing, I agree. However refusal to follow policy itself does not equal a leave order.

    At no point am I arguing that violating the law is permitted, I am stating that violating policy IS legal.

    I get the possible stigma issue but you are arguing a MORAL point not a legal one. If I am standing on the *sidewalk* and catch a photo of you going in I have broken no law and cannot be trespassed.

    It is also important to recognize that you have no privacy in public, and in the US your rights are not to be violated by the GOVERNMENT, but in general private citizens are not subject to the same limitations. Those subject to HIPAA are but those covered entities are a fraction of a fraction of the population.

    I continue to argue there WAS NO violation. She didn’t chose to be in the photo NOR could she have prevented it, given she had no power to take action how could she violate a policy? Your argument is nonsensical, it is basically I can violate the policy FOR YOU and YOU are responsible. What do you think she could have done that would have changed ANYTHING?

  • Elliott Whitlow

    Nancy, I’ve been working for over 30 years, and have worked for small to HUGE companies as well as the Department of Defense, i have dealt with far more dire policies than you could ever hope to so don’t for a second think I don’t understand policies. An important point, is that they can’t be violated FOR ME I have to do something to violate them.

    She was “clearly cooperating”? You are looking at the same picture I was, right? This picture screams candid to me. I’m sorry, I think you are clearly wrong.

    Perhaps she did make a mistake not telling someone that some guy took a picture of her, BUT how would she know it wasn’t just some guy pulling out of the lot? How did she know it was media? How did she know anything other than some random dude snapped a shot of her? You simply don’t get to make assumptions.

    Nancy, if she was cooperating and you could actually show that then I would be on board with her violating policy. But you have to SHOW it, you don’t get to make assumptions without evidence and the picture tells you virtually nothing.

    Let me tell you how this would play in the states, she would take the reprimand, write a response, then when they fired her down the road or she quit she would sue them for a hostile workplace environment, citing among other things the bogus write-up and lack of any documentation showing she was a willing participant. Then the company settles because they know she has them by the short hairs.

    As a final point this could have been handled so much better and informally.

  • Elliott Whitlow

    You have to leave immediate when told to leave, you don’t have to stop taking pictures/video. Only when you refuse to leave are you trespassing. A leave order is their only recourse..