Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., has notified 357 individuals after an employee since fired was found to be taking home medical records and other documents.
According to the Associated Press, the affected records were dated from 1995 to 2006. What follows is the hospital's media statement:
"On the afternoon of May 31, 2011, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center received a call about documents, belonging or pertaining to the medical center, discovered in the basement of a rental home. Following an immediate response by our Privacy and Compliance Offices and with assistance from the Winston-Salem Police Department, our staff removed boxes from properties and storage units owned by former employee, Linda Turner.
"The medical center staff launched a meticulous investigation and determined there were employment and medical documents mixed in with large volumes of the former employee's personal documents, newspapers, magazines and trash. The protected employee and patient information was accessible to Turner in her position as a manager and medical records employee at Wake Forest Baptist.
"The documents were removed without authorization and dated as recently as 2006. Wake Forest Baptist found no evidence that the information was misused or taken for untoward purposes. It appeared the documents were left undisturbed in storage areas until they were discovered after a flood in one of the properties. Turner's attorney admitted, through public statements to the news media, that his client had a hoarding problem.
"Once documents were sorted and processed, staff then reviewed the documents and located current contact information for those affected.
"The medical center found that of the 357 individuals affected, 221 are past or current medical center employees and 136 are patients. Today, Wake Forest Baptist is sending letters to the affected employees and patients, informing them of the incident and the information that was recovered. In addition, the medical center is offering one year of free financial monitoring for those individuals whose credit could be adversely affected.
"The information recovered by our staff involved in the investigation ranged from a Social Security number on an employment document to a page from a patient medical record. None of the documents discovered comprised a complete patient medical record. The employment records date from a time when many hospitals used Social Security numbers as the employee identification number. Wake Forest Baptist discontinued this practice several years ago.
"As a result of this incident, medical center employees are undergoing additional training on the proper handling of paper documents containing personal or protected health information. New staff will be similarly trained and this instruction will be included in our annual mandatory compliance training.
"The medical center has completed its investigation of this matter and reported the information to the appropriate regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the North Carolina Attorney General and The Joint Commission. At the request of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a review of the incident has also been completed by the North Carolina Department of Health Services Regulation (DHSR). DHSR found no deficiencies in any conditions of participation."
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