MyKayla McCann was shocked by what she discovered at her first day of work.

Using confidential medical records, her new co-workers at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine, had created an ersatz collage that was hidden on the inside of a cabinet door and labeled it the “Wall of Shame.” The records belonged to the hospital’s physically and mentally disabled patients, and described their “sexual activity, genital dysfunction, bowel movements, bodily odors and other personal maladies,” according to a 2018 report from Maine’s Human Rights Commission, which labeled the collage “objectively offensive.”

The alarming discovery was the start of a years-long saga that would ultimately lead the commission to determine that McCann was subjected to a hostile work environment, where hospital staffers violated patient privacy laws to look up her medical records, and discriminated against her because of her own disability. Now, after a report on the findings in the Bangor Daily News, officials have issued a public apology, telling local media outlets on Thursday that the hospital is “fully committed to ensuring this doesn’t happen again."

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Records obtained by the Daily News and Lewiston Sun Journal show that the Wall of Shame contained graphic and deeply personal medical records, including photos of unnamed patients’ genitalia and diagnoses like “butt wounds” and “sour smell of vagina.” The collage, a state investigator wrote, was “intended to demean and humiliate and included supposed ‘jokes’ ” about patients with disabilities.

McCann, who began working as a lab technician at the hospital in June 2015, initially didn’t say anything about the Wall of Shame because she was new on the job and feared that she, too, could become a target for mockery. She had previously been treated by the hospital for conditions related to a disability, the details of which are redacted in official documents, but hadn’t told anyone when she applied for the job.

Yet, her co-workers seemed to find out anyway. In April 2016, McCann took a leave of absence to deal with health concerns. She told the commission that she specifically chose to be treated at hospitals other than the one where she worked out of fear that her colleagues would find out and mock her. When she returned to work, she noticed her co-workers treating her differently.

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In particular, McCann said, three of her fellow laboratory technicians started asking her the kind of questions — “Do you drink and drive?” and “Do you party a lot?” — that gave her reason to suspect that they had looked at the medical records that were on file for her at St. Mary’s.

According to the commission’s report, McCann went to hospital administrators in the fall of 2016, mentioning both her suspicion that her colleagues had been digging into her private medical files and her concerns about the Wall of Shame. But higher-ups were slow to take action. Though the hospital claimed the offensive collage was dealt with in a “matter of weeks,” McCann had photographic evidence to the contrary, showing that it was still in place in December 2016, several months after she first complained.

Meanwhile, the hospital’s IT department conducted its own investigation and confirmed that three of McCann’s colleagues had been snooping in her medical records. One of the technicians was fired, and two others were disciplined. But that made matters even worse, McCann said in her complaint, because her remaining co-workers blamed her and began talking behind her back. She quit her job in January 2017, citing “the hostile work environment and the numerous HIPAA violations that I have repeatedly reported,” and filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission the next month.

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A state investigator determined that McCann had indeed been subjected to a hostile work environment, and had been targeted on the basis of her disabilities when co-workers looked up her private records. Though she wasn’t personally featured on the Wall of Shame, the fact that her colleagues “constructed a workplace display ridiculing patients with disabilities” that she saw every day amounted to pervasive harassment, the report states.

The investigator also observed that McCann seemed deeply distressed by her experience and “presented as anxious to an extreme,” but rejected the former lab technician’s claim that she had faced retaliation, noting that office gossip wasn’t the same thing as harassment. Last January, the commission unanimously voted in support of the investigator’s findings.

In June, the commission voted against filing its own lawsuit against the hospital, leaving it up to McCann to determine if she wants to pursue litigation. Her attorneys have yet to comment on whether that is likely to happen.

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Though McCann’s complaint and the commission’s report were a matter of public record, it wasn’t until Wednesday that the Daily News publicized the disturbing findings. In a joint statement to the newspaper and other Maine media outlets, Steven Jorgensen, the president of St. Mary’s Health System, and Stephen Grubbs, the president and CEO of the hospital’s parent organization, Covenant Health, said that administrators had found “no other breaches in patient privacy” beyond those detailed in the commission’s report. Hospital officials also told the Sun Journal on Thursday that none of the documents posted on the Wall of Shame revealed a patient’s identity.

“This incident is troubling,” Grubbs said in a statement. “I am confident however that it is not reflective of the greater St. Mary’s family, which is deeply caring and committed to serving every member of our community with empathy and compassion.”

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