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Atchison Hospital hit with privacy suit

Atchison Hospital divulged intimate private details of a woman’s sexual assault evaluation and treatment to her rapist, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court.

A report by The Kansas City Star, citing her lawsuit, says that months later, after a “barrage” of harassment, the woman was raped again by the same man. The woman filed the lawsuit against the hospital and the X-ray technician accused of disclosing the patient’s information to her attacker.

The technician was fired by the hospital but was rehired at Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital in Leavenworth County not long after, according to the petition.

The woman, who lives nearby in Missouri, trusted the hospital with information about the May 2017 assault, which included the name of her assailant, her attorneys said. She was adamant her health information not be released to third parties, according to her lawsuit.

The petition has accused the hospital of not having adequate protocols in place to protect patient information. Atchison Hospital has not filed a response in court, according to The Star.

Hospital CEO John Jacobson, who is set to retire at the end of June, provided a statement to Atchison Globe following Friday’s report on the matter by The Star.

“Patient confidentiality at Atchison Hospital and our ability to protect personal information is a top priority of ours,” he said. “While we are limited with what we can share related to this situation, we are deeply disturbed by the actions of this former employee. In fact, when we were made aware of this situation, we took immediate steps to investigate and within two days, we terminated this individual’s employment.”

The Star said it hasn’t named the victim as part of its reporting practices, in which victims of sexual assault are not named without their permission.

After the woman was assaulted, hospital staff administered a rape kit examination, according to the suit. Information collected during her evaluation was protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), her attorneys said. The privately-owned hospital betrayed its patient when the technician called the woman’s alleged assailant and told him the woman accused him of sexual violence, according to the lawsuit.

The employee also disclosed other private information, something the patient did not consent to, the lawsuit said. The technician denied she disclosed the information.

After getting the confidential information, the woman’s assailant “relentlessly” harassed and threatened her through texts and phone calls, according to the lawsuit. He sent her graphic language and pornographic content, the woman’s lawyers said. The patient also was harassed by hospital staff, according to the lawsuit.

Nearly four months after the privacy breach, the technician was terminated, according to the lawsuit. But she was hired to work at Saint Luke’s Cushing Hospital and Atchison Hospital didn’t do enough to prevent this, the woman’s attorneys said.

“We reviewed this specific situation to understand what could be done differently in the future and as a result, immediately implemented changes, including stricter accessibility requirements to our Health Information Management department,” Jacobson said.

A hospital official sent the patient a letter “expressing deep regret” and apologizing for the breach, according to the lawsuit. In its letter, the hospital said the employee did not appear to be a member of the woman’s “immediate health care team.”

The letter said the hospital “immediately took action,” launching an investigation that included interviewing the employee who released the information, as well as several other employees, to determine how the breach occurred.

According to the hospital, the investigation showed that the employee did not access the information from an electronic medical record at the hospital but rather by viewing information in the hospital’s Health Information Department. The hospital said it did not think the breach included any financial information.

“We are committed to doing everything possible to provide a safe and caring environment for our patients in Atchison and our surrounding communities,” Jacobson said. “Paramount to that is confidentiality and privacy around personal medical information.”

The woman’s claims included invasion of privacy, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and punitive damages. She argued she was entitled to more than $75,000 in damages for each count.

Investors sue in school's demise

In a world of international business, believe it or not, sometimes matters can arise between Hong Kong, China, Southern California, and Atchison.

A team of eight Chinese plaintiffs has filed suit against two Chinese-American business organizers, the governors of Kansas Education Holdings, LLC, which operated the Riverbend International School in Atchison until summer 2018.

The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, May 7, in the state District Court of Atchison County, has alleged that K.T. Leung of West Covina, California, and Carol Kwan, of Torrance, California, misled the plaintiffs during the course of encouraging them to invest in the Atchison school, which closed its doors last summer.

“ ... At all relevant times, corporate formalities were not followed,” the plaintiffs wrote.

The lawsuit has alleged that problems arose quickly after the school became established in both its operations and in the relationship between the investors, Leung and Kwan.

The plaintiffs have alleged none of the investors spoke or read English in a business environment primarily conducted in English. They relied, the lawsuit has alleged, on promises of various benefits from the establishment of the school, designed to rely on revenues from international students, mainly from China.

The students studied in Atchison during its three academic years of operation at a campus that formerly served as a juvenile detention center for the Kansas Department of Corrections, located near Benedictine College on North Second Street in Atchison.

In exchange for investing $500,000 each, the plaintiffs have alleged that they each expected to receive a 5 percent ownership stake in the business, certain immigration benefits in the United States and a say in how the business would be run.

Instead, the plaintiffs have alleged, the first time they heard from Kwan following the establishment of the school was August 2016, when she informed them of a poor financial state of affairs at Riverbend.

All along, the plaintiffs have alleged, Kwan and Leung cut them out of business operations by remotely governing affairs via a secondary company. Staff and faculty went without pay for most of the spring 2018 semester, and were ultimately laid off at the close of the final academic year last May.

Kwan told Atchison Globe on the phone last year that she would make all efforts to make her employees and investors whole on the failed venture.

“We are trying very hard to manage it,” she said. “We are trying to find if we could raise funding and if there are other sources of revenue available. Hopefully, we will keep it going.”

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Contraband ensnares inmate's wife

An alleged plan to sneak contraband to a local jail inmate has produced a felony charge for his wife.

Atchison County Sheriff Jack Laurie said Crystalynn M. Newson, 28, of St. Joseph, Missouri, conspired with her husband, Devan Newson, 25, of Atchison, to bring him tobacco on the day of his March 18 appointment before a judge of the District Court of Atchison County.

The reported discovery, investigation and subsequent arrest warrant led to her own Monday, May 6, jailing in connection with trafficking contraband into a correctional facility. Newson’s wife obtained release from jail soon after by fulfilling a $15,000 bond agreement, ahead of a district court hearing. At the Friday hearing, the court deemed her eligible for a court-appointed defense counsel, Judd Herbster, to represent her. Her next day in court is scheduled for the 9 a.m. criminal docket on Friday, May 24.

Laurie said suspicions arose this spring that she planned to meet her husband in secret at the Atchison County Courthouse. The suspicions are associated with a report that she hid herself in a basement bathroom of the courthouse. Laurie said he has concluded the couple planned to find each other in that location.

“Devan had requested to use the restroom while being transported from the jail into the courthouse.” Laurie said. “... After a brief search of the restroom, he was allowed access. However, jail staff didn’t see Crystalynn hiding in the restroom during the brief search and allowed Devan to enter.”

Newson himself is awaiting court proceedings in an August 2018 home invasion and robbery, as well as a more recent trafficking charge.

Since the incident, jail authorities have made a policy change, Laurie said. Inmates are no longer allowed to use courthouse restrooms and are to be transported back to the jail whenever they have such requests. In a follow-up interview, asked on the severity and frequency of contraband at the jail, Laurie said this situation is of an “irregular” kind.

“Most of the incidents involving contraband in the jail involve new arrests or persons that are ordered to jail by the courts,” he said, adding that such contraband is then discovered on the newly jailed persons during the intake process.

“Last one (like the Newson case) that we know of was about 2 years ago, and attempted through the mail.”

Devan Newson had a trafficking complaint filed against him on April 1, and he is scheduled for a 1 p.m. status hearing on Monday, May 13, with his court-appointed defense counsel, John J. Bryant.

He is further scheduled for a jury trial Tuesday, July 16, related to multiple felonies that include one count aggravated robbery, four counts kidnapping, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault with the use of a deadly weapon, aggravated assault, theft of property and felony theft.

He remains in jail, held on a $15,000 bond for the trafficking charge and on $75,000 bond for his alleged role in the home invasion case.

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59 closes again due to floods

WINTHROP, Missouri — Road crews deployed on Wednesday evening to the low-lying area of a key transportation artery between northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri, ahead of a renewed shutdown ordered later that night.

Missouri Department of Transportation crews, assisted by the Buchanan County (Missouri) Sheriff’s Office, regulated traffic to one lane on U.S. Highway 59, then later shut down the road. The Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge over the river from Atchison remained open to local traffic only as of 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“There will be barricades on the Mo-Kan bridge to stop traffic,” said Wes Lanter, Atchison County Emergency Management director.

According to Lanter, data released by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show that the river will crest at moderate flood stage by midday on Friday, May 9. With nearby levees still breached from the March flooding, this will likely sustain the closure for an uncertain period of time.

As a result, area travelers between St. Joseph and Atchison will need to use U.S. Highway 36 east-west via Kansas Highway 7 north-south, with a longer route via U.S. Highway 73 north-south through Leavenworth, Kansas, available.

The closure follows a roughly three-and-one-half week period in late March and early April where flooding blocked the road following the overtopping and breach of the Rushville-Silver Lake area levees along the eastern side of the Missouri River. Waters are expected to recede below moderate flood stage by Wednesday, but it’s not clear what effect this will have on the highway itself, which may be covered up to a point before or after that time.