Four community hospitals in Massachusetts and their associated pathology practices are investigating major breaches after tens of thousands of paper pathology records were found at a recycling station by a Boston Globe photographer who was dropping off his trash.

The hospitals are Carney Hospital, Holyoke Medical Center, Milford Regional Medical Center and Milton Hospital. The records were dumped by the former owner of a billing company who sold the company around June 1, with the new owner retaining only records from 2010, according to the newspaper.

The dumped records appear to be pathology reports from 2007 to early 2010, which include names, addresses, dates of birth, diagnoses, insurance policy numbers and Social Security numbers. The Carney, Holyoke and Milton facilities have posted public notices of the breach on their Web sites while investigations continue. Milton Hospital believes more than 15,252 tests were performed during the three-year period on 8,000 to 12,000 patients. Holyoke Medical Center's initially estimates the breach affects 16,000 to 24,000 of their patients.

The Milford and Carney facilities do not yet have estimates on how many patients were affected. Milford was notified of the breach on Aug. 12 and expects soon to have additional information and a notice on its Web site, according to a spokesperson.

Officials at two hospitals told the Globe that the former owner of the billing company acknowledged he had the records dropped off at the recycling site. The former owner declined to speak to the newspaper, noting the issue may become a legal matter.

To access the hospital's online public notices, visit caritaschristi.org, holyokehealth.com and miltonhospital.org.

--Joseph Goedert

 

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