Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Covert camera at Haley VA Medical Center only one used in system

This “smoke detector” camera was installed in Joseph Carnegie’s hospital room.

Times files (2012)

This “smoke detector” camera was installed in Joseph Carnegie’s hospital room.

TAMPA — The tiny camera was housed in a plastic casing that made the device look like a smoke detector. Its manufacturer sold it as a "covert camera."

Leaders of the James A. Haley VA Medical Center said they decided to install it in a brain-damaged veteran's room to monitor his health. They said it wasn't hidden from anybody.

"It's in plain view," Roy Hawkins Jr., Haley's deputy director, told the Tampa Bay Times last year, noting the use of such cameras was routine at hospitals across the nation.

But a report released a week ago by Department of Veterans Affairs investigators exonerating Haley leaders for using the camera also contradicted some of their public explanations about a device installed in the room of Joseph Carnegie, 81.

The report by the VA's Office of Inspector General shows that of the millions of veterans receiving care at agency health centers, only one had a hidden camera installed in their VA hospital room: Carnegie.

Though VA officials insist the camera was not turned on until after Carnegie's family was told about it, the IG report shows Haley's intent was to keep it secret.

The family simply found out by accident.

"They were spying," said Carnegie's daughter, Natalie Carnegie, an Atlanta-area resident. "And they got caught."

Haley officials, who have maintained they did nothing improper, declined to comment for this story.

• • •

Joseph Carnegie, an Air Force veteran from the Atlanta area, was admitted to a South Florida veterans hospital in 2011 because of high blood sugar. Carnegie, who had been vacationing in Florida, soon developed a severe infection at that VA facility before being transferred to Haley.

Then, Carnegie suffered severe brain damage after Haley medical personnel failed to keep a feeding tube clear, the family says. The VA said it is unsure what caused the cardiac arrest that led to severe brain damage.

By June 2012, Carnegie was still hospitalized at Haley. Natalie Carnegie and her husband, Mike Coleman, said they were unhappy with the care Haley provided to her father. They said they talked about filing a malpractice suit.

Medical personnel said they began to notice small problems with Joseph Carnegie's care, the IG report said. Settings on an oxygen or IV line were changed, the report said, or bed settings would be altered.

Medical staff, the report said, suspected the family of creating "small sabotage situations" to falsely document bad care. The nurse manager on Carnegie's floor wrote an email to Haley's chief nurse about some concerns.

"I don't know if it is possible," she wrote on June 5, "but I think the patient should be on 24-hour surveillance monitoring."

Natalie Carnegie denied causing problems. In fact, Haley officials told the Times in interviews the family was not suspected of wrongdoing.

An official (none are named in the report) in patient care/nursing services said in an email, "Is it possible for a hidden camera be placed in room to detect if this is occurring?"

The chief of Haley's biomedical section asked in a June 11 email to several hospital officials, "Are we talking about a hidden camera or one in plain sight?"

The patient care/nursing official responded, "Hidden in the patient room … We don't want the family to know that they are being videotaped. The goal is to detect if they are tampering with the patient's treatment."

Not everyone in Haley leadership wanted to use a hidden camera. The hospital police chief objected because of potential "legal consequences." Other staff appeared concerned that already busy medical staff wouldn't have time to monitor the video.

But Kathleen Fogarty, the hospital director, approved the installation.

Haley bought two "smoke detector" cameras, the IG report said. Only one was installed in Carnegie's room on June 13. The report does not say how the second camera was used.

It didn't take long before Natalie Carnegie and Coleman noticed the "smoke detector" on the ceiling of her father's room. Coleman looked closer. He thought he saw a tiny camera.

A maintenance man confirmed for them that this was, indeed, a camera.

At this point, hospital officials pointed out that the camera hadn't yet been activated. A hospital assistant director (it is unclear if this was Hawkins) said in an email, "The family does know and it is ok — the camera is for monitoring purposes."

But the family was outraged.

On June 15, Haley's privacy officer sent an email to the assistant director and others saying Carnegie's family had filed a privacy complaint.

The officer said, "It is my recommendation that signage be posted in the room, as soon as possible, to state to the effect 'Video Surveillance for Patient Safety.' "

After a story about the camera in the Times, hospital officials told reporters the family knew about the camera. A spokeswoman said Carnegie's family had even signed a release acknowledging the camera.

No such release existed.

William R. Levesque can be reached at or (813) 226-3432

Covert camera at Haley VA Medical Center only one used in system 04/20/13 [Last modified: Saturday, April 20, 2013 10:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida ranks high for workplace equality between men and women

    Working Life

    When it comes to the workplace, Florida ranks fifth in terms of gender equality, a WalletHub study released Tuesday found.

    Florida ranks high in terms of equality between men and women in the workplace. Pictured is Sandra Murman, county commissioner in 2015, talking about the differences in pay between men and women. | [Times file photo]
  2. Is Ed Sheeran sexy? An investigation

    Music & Concerts

    Start with the guitar. Guitars are sexy, right? Historically, anytime anyone straps on a guitar, it's only a matter of time before they come running.

    Ed Sheeran, who sold out three shows at Madison Square Garden last year, opened for Taylor Swift’s “Red” tour and now has a new album called “x” (as in multiply), at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, June 14, 2014.  ?  I don?  t look like your typical pop star,?   says the pint-size 23-year-old British folk singer with a mop of red hair and an unassuming mien. ?  I don?  t sing songs like your typical pop star.” (Jesse Dittmar/The New York Times) -- PHOTO MOVED IN ADVANCE AND NOT FOR USE - ONLINE OR IN PRINT - BEFORE JUNE 22, 2014.
  3. Dates and itinerary for Tampa City Council trip to Cuba finalized


    TAMPA — The dates are set and the itinerary is largely finalized for the Tampa City Council's first official trip to Cuba since the Cuban Revolution.

    Tampa City Council Chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin will be a part of the city council delegation to Cuba this October. [Credit: City of Tampa]
  4. Survey: Few consumers shop for lower prices on health care


    Despite having more financial "skin in the game" than ever, many consumers don't make any attempt to compare prices for health care services, a newly released study found.

    Photo illustration. []
  5. And the most-searched NFL player in Florida is ...


    The Bucs just faced the Jacksonville Jaguars in preseason, and open their 2017 season at the Miami Dolphins. So with the state's NFL competition ahead of and just behind the Bucs, who do you think is the NFL player most searched on Google by Floridians?

    Fans react with excitement moments after the Bucs announce their first-round pick at the team's 2016 NFL draft party. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]