The Navy's surgeon general has ordered a stand down for all Navy medical personnel over the next 48 hours to reaffirm service commitments to patients and review social media policies after photos emerged on social media of medical personnel posing with newborns at a Navy hospital in Jacksonville, Florida.
Two Navy hospital corpsmen at the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, were removed from their jobs treating patients after they allegedly posted a video and photos of newborns to Snapchat, including a photo showing one of them flipping the middle finger at a newborn with the caption "how I currently feel about these mini Satans."
A video shows a female corpsman holding a newborn infant by the armpits while rocking the baby to rap music playing in the background.
The images are no longer on Snapchat, but screengrabs have been shared on Facebook by concerned users. The imagery has drawn outrage on social media.
In a message to all Navy medical personnel issued Tuesday evening, Vice Adm. C. Forrest Faison III, the surgeon general of the Navy, ordered a stand down for naval medical personnel to review policies and medical oaths and pledges to treat patients.
"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," said Faison in a blog post to Navy medical personnel. The admiral also prohibited the use of personal cellphones by medical care personnel in patient care areas until further notice.
Faison also directed commanding officers at Naval medical facilities to contact mothers and expectant mothers to reassure them, inform them of the actions being taken and to address any of their concerns.
"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," said Faison.
"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," said Faison. "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," he added. "Any behavior that falls short of this expectation will be dealt with appropriately."
Faison also ordered commanders to make sure "no additional patient photos exist on social media and to take immediate action to remove such content."
A Navy official said stand downs for Navy medical personnel will take place in a staggered fashion over the next two days to ensure there is no impact to providing patient care.
Earlier, the Navy confirmed that two hospital corpsmen had been removed from providing patient care at Naval Hospital Jacksonville because of the images posted to social media. Hospital corpsmen are enlisted Navy personnel who provide assistance to medical care professionals and also serve as combat medics when attached to Marine infantry units.
"The individuals have been removed from patient care meaning they will not be providing direct patient care," said Capt. Brenda Malone, a spokesperson for the Navy's Bureau of Medicine. Malone said the corpsmen are not being identified because of the ongoing investigation of the incident.
A Navy official said the posting of the photos was being investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and that only one newborn had been involved in the photos posted online by the corpsmen.
"We are also contacting patients to address any questions or concerns they may have," said Malone. "This type of behavior is incompatible with the Navy's core values of honor, courage and commitment, as well as medical ethics.
An earlier statement posted on Facebook by the commanding officer of the Naval Hospital Jacksonville had labeled the photos and video as "outrageous, unacceptable [and] incredibly unprofessional," and said they "cannot be tolerated."