Boxes of patient medical records have been found abandoned in a former medical centre in the Chatham area of Chicago, Illinois.
Clean-up crews have been brought in to assist in the clean-up operation which started hours after Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) requested the emergency clearing of the documents, which contain a wealth of sensitive patient information.
The medical records were dumped outside the former Medical Professional Home Healthcare Center, which closed in April 2017 after losing its state health department license and Medicare certification. Carmen Dooley previously ran the centre.
The centre lost its license following a visit by the Illinois Department of Public Health, which found the site unoccupied. They were unable to contact Dooley, and two revoked the license.
Residents have been aware of the pile of rotting documents for some time. Some residents have even claimed that errant pages have blown from the site and ended up on private properties.
CBS investigated the incident and reported that the records had been stored in storage containers on the property. However, the containers were removed, and their contents were dumped on site in piles several feet high. According to the report, Dooley had not authorized the removal of the storage containers and was unaware that the records had been abandoned.
Leonard Stewart currently rents the property from Carmen Dooley. He says he was unaware the files were inside a locked storage container on the property when he first rented the site. Stewart claims he left town for a few days, and when he returned the container was gone, and the files were in piles up to four feet high. He has since been disposing of the files.
HIPAA has strict rules surrounding document retention and requires medical records to be securely stored for five years since their creation of last use. Some of the records on the site only date back to 2017, and therefore cannot legally be destroyed.
The health department of Chicago has stated that these types of data breaches are handled at a federal level. It is yet to be seen what type of action will be taken against the individuals involved in illegally dumping medical information.
Neither number of individuals affected nor the types of information contained in the files has been publicly released.