Family members react to medical record fiasco

Posted by Cody Holyoke - bio | email

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WSFA) - Juanita Tarleton was a woman who valued privacy.  She never even had a credit card.

"She was very private about her personal information and things like that," explained Linda Shewmake, her daughter.

Unfortunately, we tracked down Tarelton's information--along with her husband's--scattered in a pile at Montgomery's landfill.

The Tareltons are just two of a thousand victims.  Baptist Health says a disposal company illegally dumped the patient files.

Family members don't know what to think.

"All your information is there. Your social security number, your date of birth, all your medicare information.  Everything.  It's frightening to think that when we fill those things out, it's not any more secure than that," Shewmake said.

The 11 boxes of files span two states and potentially hundreds of patients.

With the damage already done, Shewmake tells us she needs to hear two important words: 'I'm sorry.'

"I think they owe all the families an apology.  Not that it's going to help anything.  I think they need to beef up their security as far as confidential files," she explained.

Tuesday afternoon, Baptist Health released a statement to WSFA 12 News:

The 3rd party vendor that has accepted responsibility in this incident improperly disposed of approximately 1,000 radiologic film jackets and inserts associated with Baptist South and approximately 100 associated with 2 hospitals and 3 physician clinics located in Florida.

We have made contact with each of these organizations.

We are meticulously reviewing the data we have collected to begin sending notification by letter to all affected patients. These will be mailed within the next few days.

Based on calls we have received from concerned patients, it is important to note that the documents in question are NOT complete medical files, but rather radiologic file jackets, readings and a handful of radiologic films that were planned for recycling and destruction per industry standard and according to HIPAA guidelines. It is unfortunate for our patients, Baptist South and the other 5 affected organizations that this 3rd party vendor handled the disposal improperly and illegally.

Stay with WSFA 12 News for the latest in this continuing investigation.

©2009 WSFA. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.