Stacks of medical records were tossed in a public dumpster for anyone to access and the Connecticut State Department of Health is investigating.
Dozens of medical records were found buried in a dumpster behind Allied Medical Associates in Waterbury on Tuesday. The records contain sensitive and confidential medical information.
“I’m afraid that my medical records can be there and that’s not a good thing,” Yasmeen Burgos, of Waterbury, told NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters.
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Burgos was treated by Allied Medical Associates’ sole physician Dr. Stephen P. Harris two years ago and worries her information could be compromised.
Harris told NBC Connecticut the medical office shut down two days after Christmas because bills hadn’t been paid.
“I can’t treat my patients and also stand over people watching what’s going on, so suddenly, I found out we were deeply in debt because a lot of our 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 attorney.
A state health employee arrived a short time after the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters to investigate the records in the Waterbury dumpster on Tuesday.
Harris showed the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters that his house and car were filled with patient records saved from his practice, however, he admits the others that were found were authorized to go in the garbage.
“There were two boxes of files that were labeled or I thought labeled 2010 and there’s only a seven-year period you have to maintain records, so we put them in the dumpster. You know, I’m responsible for it, I have talked to the state. We’re going to retrieve those and destroy them but it was not intentional- it was a bad decision, but it was a decision made because we had so little time to get out,” Harris said.
NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters asked Harris why the documents weren’t shredded in the first place.
“I know they needed to be shredded, but I felt that, you know, once the dumpster people came and put 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 officials secured the records on Tuesday afternoon. They said they cannot comment on an ongoing investigation, but they provided 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 locus 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.