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[Dataloss] Dumped Medical Files Put Omaha Patients at Risk

From: Christine Fulgham (christineopensecurityfoundation.org)
Date: Thu Oct 07 2010 - 11:25:47 CDT


http://www.action3news.com/Global/story.asp?S=13274825

Omaha, NE - Thanks to an alert viewer, KMTV Action 3 News uncovers a
frightening find that could put hundreds of people's personal information in
danger. Names, social security numbers, and sensitive medical records are
left for anyone to find. We're taking action to protect those records and
get you answers.

On Tuesday night, we tracked down the doctor listed in those files. This all
started when a concerned viewer came to us with a stack of medical records.
Inside the files is extremely personal information. The viewer found them in
recycling dumpsters near 60th and Harrison Streets in Omaha. When we went
out to the bins, we found at least a couple hundred more files, all from the
clinic Gastroenterology Consultants.

The files are filled with intimate and private health issues, their social
security numbers, and addresses. We went straight to the doctor named in
the records. Doctor John Westmore yells, "Go away or I'll call the police,"
just before slamming the door.

Dr. Westmore, who specializes in colon and stomach issues, refused to talk
to KMTV Action 3 News. We went to his patients.

"This is terrible, that's honestly all I can say, honestly I'm
flabbergasted," says Willie Maye Bell.

Bell is one of a couple hundred people whose personal information may have
been at risk while sitting in the dumpster. We hand Bell's file over to her
and her husband. The two are blind-sided. "They're going to take and just
throw the files away," says her husband Russell Bell.

Like Bell's file, the others date back to 2002 and 2003. Douglas County
Health Department tells Action 3 News it's the doctor's responsibility to
destroy patient records. Before Dr. Westmore slams the door, a woman talks
for him, "He says they were disposed of properly and that's his only
comment." I answer, "These are pretty personal files and they were found in
a recycle bin not shredded." The woman responds, "When he disposed of them
he gave them to the people that were supposed to take care of them." She
won't explain who that is and the doctor comes to the door and shuts it.

As for Willie Maye Bell and the other patients, I reassure her the files
that were found, are now safe.

Since breaking the story Tuesday, we've had a lot of feedback from worried
patients. If you are concerned you could be a victim, contact us on our KMTV
Action 3 News Facebook page or email me at mgrahamaction3news.com

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