Houston Healthcare seeks gag order, change of venue in mammogram lawsuits

WARNER ROBINS -- Houston Healthcare is seeking a gag order and change of venue in many of the lawsuits filed over allegations that a radiology technician wrongly entered negative results on mammograms that weren’t reviewed by a doctor.

The company, which operates Houston Medical Center and Perry Hospital, filed numerous motions last week in relation to the lawsuits.

The motions ask for gag orders in many of the cases, alleging the defendants and their attorney have publicly discussed the defendants’ medical issues related to the case. Houston Healthcare intends to dispute those claims at trial, the motions state, but is hampered from responding to the public comments because of patient confidentiality rules. However, the motions also point out that Houston Healthcare considers the plaintiffs have waived their right to confidentiality by speaking publicly about their health issues.

“In this case, Plaintiff’s counsel’s communications with the media is prejudicing the adjudicative process,” one of the motions states. “Unlike Plaintiff, Defendants generally do not have the right to comment on Plaintiff’s” protected health information.

Houston Healthcare is also asking for the venue to be changed from Bibb County to Houston County, stating most of the witnesses live in Houston County, as well as citing other legal reasons.

A date for a hearing on the motions has not been set.

Macon attorney Neal Graham in March filed lawsuits in Bibb County on behalf of 16 women in relation to the case. He said he plans to oppose the Houston Healthcare motions but declined further comment until a judge rules on the gag order request.

Houston Healthcare attorney Victor Moldovan did not return phone calls Thursday seeking comment.

A total of 23 lawsuits are known to have been filed in relation to the case.

In four of the cases, Houston Healthcare last week filed for a motion to dismiss or summary judgment because it states it reached settlements with those patients prior to the lawsuits being filed. It also filed motions to seal court files in those cases because confidentiality agreements were part of the settlements.

The lawsuits stem from allegations that Rachael Rapraeger, a former radiology technician at Perry Hospital, entered negative results for 1,289 mammograms that were not reviewed by a radiologist. Of those patients, 10 were later determined to actually be positive, resulting in Rapraeger’s indictment on 10 felony counts of computer forgery and 10 misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct.

The lawsuits were filed in Bibb County because Rapraeger, named as a defendant in the lawsuits, is a resident of Macon. Her attorney, Floyd Buford, has said she maintains her innocence.

Graham has stated previously that what Rapraeger was doing would have been discovered sooner with better hospital procedures.

Houston Healthcare stated in the motions last week that Rapraeger’s acts were “well outside the course and scope of her employment” and done without the hospital’s knowledge.

Staff writer Amy Leigh Womack contributed to this report. To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.