Ogdensburg hospital terminates employees following breaches of patient information; says police not involved
By JIMMY LAWTON
OGDENSBURG -- Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center says “breaches of patient information were discovered” during a recent internal investigation, but employees who purposefully committed the acts have been terminated.
CHMC spokeswoman Laura Shea said the hospital dealt with the breach immediately and took action required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which outlines protection and confidential handling of protected health information.She said the hospital strives to educate its employees about patient privacy and called the breach unfortunate. She says the hospital has also enacted more safeguards to reduce the likelihood of future problems.
Shea said she could not disclose the number of employees who were involved or the number of people affected due to human resources requirements at the hospital. But she emphasized that following the investigation, the hospital terminated employment of individuals who accessed the records inappropriately.
Shea says all patients affected by the breach “have been notified via registered mail.” She said that action was taken once the investigation was completed.
Many who received a notification letter from the hospital have been expressing concerns on social media about having their information inappropriately accessed.
Some have stated they felt violated, while others have discussed taking legal action against the hospital.
The breach appears to be a violation of the act, which could result in heavy fines for the hospital and the individuals involved.
HIPPA violations can also result in jail time. However, Shea says police are not involved.
In response to questions regarding the information breach Shea provided the following statement.
"Patient privacy is very important to Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center. Our employees cannot provide care without having access to patient information, but Claxton-Hepburn maintains detailed policies, procedures, and safeguards relating to privacy and security of patient information and all employees are required to comply with those standards. Beginning the day an employee is hired, they receive education on the requirement to protect a patient’s personal health information. Additionally, employees receive ongoing training on the requirements of HIPAA and our policies and procedures and Claxton-Hepburn monitors compliance with those standards through random audits. Employees who violate our standards relating to privacy of patient information are subject to termination. During a recent internal investigation, breaches of patient information were discovered. The employees involved have been subject to disciplinary action. All patients involved in the breach have been notified via registered mail.
“Claxton-Hepburn strives to provide the best care to patients possible, and that extends to protecting the privacy of patient information. As part of those efforts, we regularly assess our practices and update those practices where we identify opportunities for potential improvement. We are honored by the trust our patients place in us, and we work hard to maintain that trust and provide quality care."
North Country Now received a report that Massena Memorial Hospital patient information may have been compromised, but MMH officials say that is not true.
“We did not have any employee that broke into medical records,” said Tina Corcoran, MMH director of public relations and planning. “We absolutely had no breach at all.”