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Attorney Wayne
Attorney Wayne, Attorney
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Experience:  Practicing law since 2000.
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Does a healthcare facility have the right to search personal

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Does a healthcare facility have the right to search personal property (handbag)
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Hello. Thanks for contacting us. In general, anyone has a right to condition access to any real estate on any security measure. But for a health care facility, it depends on the context. If its just a doctor's office or a non-emergency section of a larger facility, like a hospital, then it is likely allowable unless it interferes with another contract (for instance, if an HMO won't give service to people who are enrolled unless they submit to inspection, and the search requirement is not in the insurance contract governing the HMO's services).

There may be other instances -- but overall, reasonable searches (not unlike those at an airport) are considered by law voluntary (someone can refuse to submit but not use the service, whether an airport or a medical facility).

It is possible that such searches at health care facilities could evolve into some other legal breach.

For instance, privacy regulations would mean that the search does not end up revealing patient information to those not entitled (for instance, the search needs to be subtle enough that the whole room can't see a patient's pill bottle, medical file or other privacy-protected items that may be searched because they are in a bag being carried.).

In many public hospitals or hospitals in high-crime areas, searches are routine to keep guns, knives, bombs and other harmful stuff away so those working can do their jobs without fear of being collateral damage in an attack on someone else.

So, in most cases, the answer would be yes, they can search or deny entry to those who don't submit. But there could be exceptions based on certain facts and circumstances (such as the contract that I mentioned above).

Please let me know if you have any follow-up questions on this subject.

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