President Donald Trump required staff at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to sign non-disclosure agreements before treating him during a surprise visit last year, four people familiar with the process told NBC News.
Trump required the NDAs from both physicians and non-medical medical staffers who were for the most part active-duty military service members during an unexpected visit to the hospital in November 2019, NBC News reported. At least two doctors at Walter Reed who declined signing the agreement, were not permitted to take part in President Trump’s care, two of the sources told NBC News.
At that time, Trump’s communication aides suggested the surprise visit was for a “routine physical exam,” although it was later reported that discussions regarding a need for Vice President Mike Pence to temporarily assume presidential powers in the case of emergency had been underway.
It was not known whether Trump had made the same requirement of staff previously uninvolved in his care during his most recent three-day stay at Walter Reed when he was admitted last week for treatment of coronavirus.
Trump has regularly required NDAs from employees at the Trump Organization, but legal protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guarantee patient privacy which stirs questions about why Trump would seek NDAs from Walter Reed staff.
“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,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement to NBC News.
In addition, all personnel assigned to the White House Medical Unit, which treats the president and the vice president day to day, are required to have achieved a high-level security clearance involving in-depth background checks.
With less than a month until the presidential election, concerns about the President’s health amid his COVID-19 diagnosis have been batted away by Walter Reed doctors who quickly discharged the President after only three days and were evasive about his lung health.
“We’ve done routine standard imaging. I’m just not at liberty to discuss,” White House physician Dr. Sean Conley told reporters Monday. He has repeatedly refused to disclose information about Trump’s health citing HIPAA and would not say and when he had last received a negative test for coronavirus.
Trump has closely orchestrated public appearances during his illness in a manner that projects strength, even suggesting on Wednesday that getting COVID-19 was a “blessing from God.”