Political News

Some Walter Reed staff were asked to sign NDAs during Trump's November visit

Posted October 8, 2020 2:48 p.m. EDT

— Some medical professionals at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements when President Donald Trump made a last-minute visit there last November, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The request caused consternation among some of the hospital staff, and more than one of the staff members who were asked to sign the NDA refused, the person said.

It wasn't clear how many had refused and how many signed the documents. Trump has previously used NDAs to try to prevent leaks of damaging personal information.

NBC News first reported on the NDAs at Walter Reed.

In a statement, the White House said anyone treating Trump would already be obligated to confidentiality through existing rules but did not deny that NDAs had been requested.

"Any physician caring for the President is bound by patient-physician confidentiality guaranteed under HIPAA, and I'm not going to comment on internal procedures beyond that," deputy press secretary Judd Deere said.

Trump's visit to Walter Reed on November 16, 2019, generated questions about the state of his health. It was not listed on his pubic schedule and reporters were summoned quickly to accompany him there. Instead of taking his Marine One helicopter, as he normally does when visiting Walter Reed, Trump rode in a motorcade.

The White House said the visit was meant to get a head start on his yearly physical, though it has never been revealed which procedures or tests he underwent there that could not be performed at the White House, which contains some medical facilities. All the White House said was Trump received a "quick exam and labs."

The President remained at the hospital for more than two hours. After a weekend of speculation about the trip, his physician, Dr. Sean Conley, wrote in a memo that Trump "has not had any chest pain, nor was he evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues."

He added that the President "did not undergo any specialized cardiac or neurologic evaluations."

Trump returned to Walter Reed last weekend for hospitalization after testing positive for coronavirus. He was treated by a team of doctors from the hospital, along with physicians in the White House Medical Unit and Johns Hopkins University.

It wasn't known whether that team was similarly asked to sign NDAs related to Trump's health.

Questioned about aspects of the President's recovery in news conferences, Conley repeatedly declined to answer, citing patient confidentiality.

On Monday, Conley cited "HIPAA rules and regulations" as the reason he couldn't share details on the President's lung imaging, which led to complaints that he was dodging difficult questions.

Conley was referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which protects patients from having their medical records disclosed without their consent. Exceptions include when the information is needed for treatment, payment or operations of the medical provider's office.

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