JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Bad behavior at Naval Hospital Jacksonville that surfaced in social media posts this week prompted emergency action Wednesday at military medical facilities across the globe.
Two corpsmen at the Jacksonville hospital were removed from patient care Sunday after photos surfaced on social media of inappropriate behavior with a newborn baby.
The Navy surgeon general responded Wednesday and ordered an immediate review of all Navy Medicine commands.
Vice Adm. Forrest Faison has banned all personal cellphones in patient care areas until further notice after Snapchat posts surfaced of the corpsmen making obscene gestures at a baby with the caption, "How I currently feel about these mini Satans," and making a newborn "dance" to rap music playing in the background.
The Navy confirmed to News4Jax that two women corpsmen are currently under investigation in the incident.
The woman behind the camera is identified on social media as Allyson Thompson. The one in the pictures is identified as Joanie Barrett. News4Jax attempted to reach Thompson on Tuesday, but we were not successful.
Faison has also ordered commanding officers to personally contact current mothers and expectant mothers planning to deliver at Navy hospitals "to reassure them, inform them of our actions, and address any of their concerns."
The Jacksonville hospital’s commanding officer said he knew about the video and photos Monday night. He said the behavior was “outrageous, unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.” He also said that the staff members involved have been taken away from patient care and were being investigated criminally and within the military.
In his message to Navy personnel, Faison said he applauds those who reported the inappropriate behavior.
"They chose not to be silent," Faison wrote. "This is what I expect of every member of the Navy Medicine team -- from the deck plate to our senior leaders."
Faison's response also included a command that Navy personnel ensure no more patient photos exist on social media and that all such photos are removed immediately.
Corpsmen are the equivalent of certified nursing assistants. They are enlisted Navy personnel and not licensed. They are supervised by doctors and nurses.
Reaction on social media to the posts was swift. Many people posting on social media called for the worker in the video to be fired.
The posts also caught the attention of lawmakers, including local congressmen.
“It's unacceptable, and something needs to be done about it. That's not good for anybody,” U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, said. “You got to think if you would want that to happen to your family members, your kids. And it just shouldn't happen. That is a bad mistake.”
Republican U.S. Rep. John Rutherford called the images appalling but said it's important that the entire hospital and the Navy aren't blamed for the actions of the two women.
“This is not indicative, I don't think, of a procedural problem or a cultural problem, within the Navy,” he said. “It is a personnel problem. And I am very confident that they will take care of it.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, also responded to the social media ire.
“The staff abuse of infants that occurred at the Naval Hospital Jacksonville maternity ward is deeply disturbing and unacceptable," he said in a prepared statement. "I am glad to see the Navy is taking this outrageous behavior seriously, and acting quickly to protect the rights of all patients. Hospital staff, especially Navy personnel, who behave in this manner on the job must be held fully accountable.”
The women could be discharged from the military and face criminal charges. Representatives with the Navy said they can't release details because it's a confidential investigation.
Read the full message from Navy Surgeon General Vice Adm. Forrest Faison below:
It has come to my attention that members of the Navy Medicine team posted highly offensive photos and videos on their personal social media pages involving newborns at our naval hospitals. This content was then shared on various platforms and has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of individuals. Members of the Navy Medicine team represent the Navy 24/7. Unprofessional and inappropriate social media behavior is inconsistent with both our core values of honor, courage and commitment as well as our medical ethics, violating the oaths we took for our profession and office. This type of behavior also has a negative effect on mission accomplishment and good order and discipline.
In an age where information can be shared instantly, what we say and post online must reflect the highest standards of character and conduct, in both our personal and professional lives. As health care professionals, we are entrusted with the lives and well-being of all those who have volunteered to defend our freedom, including their families. We owe them the best care and compassion our nation can offer. We also owe them our unqualified respect. Any behavior that falls short of this expectation will be dealt with appropriately. This type of inappropriate conduct violates two of my core values: (1) be worthy of the trust placed in our hands in the privilege of caring for America’s sons and daughters, and (2) be worthy of the “uniform” we wear, both military and civilian, and all that we represent. At every level of the enterprise, we must send a clear message that Navy and Navy Medicine leadership take every allegation of offensive and unacceptable online conduct seriously and will hold responsible individuals accountable for their actions.
I have directed immediate mandatory all-hands stand downs within 48 hours at all Navy Medicine commands to review our oaths, our pledges, our reasons for serving, as well as Navy Medicine’s policy regarding use of personally owned phones and other recording devices (BUMED INST 3104.2A). Further, all commanding officers will be tasked to ensure no additional patient photos exist on social media and to take immediate action to remove such content. We are committed to working closely with ongoing investigations to ensure we have the facts and take appropriate action. I have also implemented an immediate prohibition of all personal cell phones in patient care areas until further notice. Additionally, I have directed all commanding officers to personally contact current mothers and expectant mothers planning to deliver in one of our facilities to reassure them, inform them of our actions, and address any of their concerns.
I applaud the individuals who took a stand when they witnessed this inappropriate behavior online. They chose not to be silent. This is what I expect of every member of the Navy Medicine team -- from the deck plate to our senior leaders. Honor, service, caring and compassion -- that is what the Navy Medicine team represents. Because of that, American families rest well at night knowing we have the watch and are committed to the best care for their loved ones. We cannot compromise the trust that has been placed in our hands. Our Sailors, Marines and their families deserve our best.