Piles of health documents were tossed in a public dumpster for anyone to get their hands on and the Connecticut Country Branch of health is investigating.
Multiple stacks of health information had been discovered buried in a dumpster in the back of Allied Medical Associates in Waterbury on Tuesday. The documents contain private and sensitive health information.
“I’m afraid that my medical information may be there and that’s not a good thing,” Yasmeen Burgos, of Waterbury, told NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters.
Burgos was treated by Allied Medical Associates’ primary medical doctor Dr. Stephen P. Harris a couple years ago and is concerned her records could be compromised.
Harris informed NBC Connecticut that the clinical office closed down two days after Christmas because the bills were not paid.
“I can’t treat my patients and also stand over people watching what’s going on, so suddenly, I found out we have been deeply in debt due to the fact that a lot of bills hadn’t been paid,” Harris said.
A note on the front door of Allied Medical Associates said the office is permanently closed and for patients to contact their legal attorney.
A state health worker showed up a short time after the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters to analyze the information inside the Waterbury dumpster on Tuesday.
Harris revealed to the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters that his house and car have been packed with patient information saved from his practice; however, he admits the others that were discovered in the dumpster had been approved to go in the garbage.
“There have been containers of files that were categorized or I thought categorized 2010 and there’s only a seven-year duration you need to keep the documents, so we placed them in the dumpster. I’m liable for it; I have talked to the state. We’re going to retrieve those ones and shred them but it was not deliberate- it was a terrible choice, however, it was a decision made because we had so little time to get out,” Harris said.
NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters asked Harris why the files weren’t destroyed the first time.
“I understand they needed to be shredded, however, I felt that you know, once the dumpster people got here and placed them in a dump covered up and chewed them up, there wouldn’t be anybody crawling through there to get those,” Harris said. “We had our own shredder and it takes forever to shred those and we didn’t have time to do it.”
State health officers secured the information on Tuesday afternoon. They said they cannot comment on an ongoing investigation, but they supplied NBC Connecticut an outline of the state’s law regarding medical records.
According to state statute 19a-14-44 Discontinuance of Practice, patients must be informed.
“This must be done by placing a notice in a daily local newspaper published in the community, which is the prime focus of the practice. The notice shall appear twice, seven days apart. In addition, an individual letter is to be sent to each patient seen within the three years preceding the date of discontinuance of the practice. Medical records of all patients must be retained for at least sixty days following both the public and private notice to patients,” the law reads in part.
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