Children’s medical records were found dumped behind a medical facility in Florida

27 March 2013

By Dave Elias, NBC2 Investigator

A tip to the NBC2 Investigators led to a discovery of medical records being dumped behind a medical facility in Collier County.

“I’m concerned and I’m disturbed. The fact that anyone can come by and grab them out of a garbage can,” said a medical industry expert who didn’t want to be identified.

The medical records were discovered inside a dumpster behind the Health Care Network of Southwest Florida.

NBC2 Investigator Dave Elias retrieved more than a dozen records from the dumpster. All of them contained the names, birth dates and phone numbers of children.

The youngest child was just 11 years old. The records also contained the type of insurance the children were on and even the date of their visit.

“My son is only 16, and only because of somebody’s laziness this happened,” said one mother who chose not to be identified.

Other parents we notified were concerned that none of the documents were shredded.

“We should all be upset about something like this being so easily and readily available,” said Lee County Fraud Investigator Stacey Payne.

All of the documents were inside clear plastic bags behind Dental Care East along Davis Boulevard in Naples.

A child’s medical evaluation form was also among the discarded items discovered.

Payne admits while none of the children’s social security numbers were thrown out, she said a good con artist could obtain them by calling the parents and pretending to be someone from the dental office.

“We have federal regulations that govern how we’re supposed to handle this information so that something like this doesn’t happen,” said the medical expert.

The Department of Health and Human Services agreed by stating, “Medical facilities can not abandon or dispose of the documents in dumpsters or other containers accessible to the public.”

“To me this is unacceptable for a business like that to just throw records out. There’s no excuse for that,” an unidentified mother said. “When you called me I started wondering why would they even throw records out.”

No one from the Health Care Network of Southwest Florida would talk on camera.

“This is a case of human error,” said company spokeswoman Lesa Peterson.

The company further stated that because of the NBC2 findings they plan to retrain and counsel employees. The company also noted plans to remove garbage cans from all offices excluding employee break rooms.

Finally, Health Care said it has hired a shredding company to handle all of its documents.

The Health Care Network said it will notify all 13 patients whose information was compromised by being tossed into the dumpster.

NBC2 will turn over all of the documents to authorities for proper disposal.

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