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Former employee removes patient records from Tri-City

OCEANSIDE — The Tri-City Healthcare district is investigating how a former employee was able to remove private records of about 6,500 patients from the hospital earlier this month and why he turned them over to the state Department of Public Health.

In a statement, the district said the former employee removed emergency department logs — paper records that include personal information of patients who visited the hospital’s emergency department and were admitted to the hospital or transferred to another facility — without authorization.

The logs include full names, dates of service, birthdates and medical record numbers and covered a time period from Dec. 1, 2013 to May 13, 2014, but don’t include social security numbers or financial information.

The former employee turned the records over to the San Diego office of the state’s public health department, which still has the records, but is in the process of turning them over to Tri-City, hospital spokesman David Bennett said.

It is unclear why the former employee took such action.

“We don’t know why he turned them over to the state,” Bennett said. “Normally if the state health department wanted those records, they would have contacted the appropriate people here, and obviously we would have given them whatever they wanted.”

Hospital officials described the employee as a mid-level official in the hospital’s facilities department who was let go earlier in the summer. He would not have access to those records, they said, but another worker left them on a cart that the employee used.

Bennett said the hospital immediately reported the breach to appropriate regulatory agencies such as the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Oceanside police were also contacted.

Bennett said there is no indication that any of the confidential information in the logs has been used or further disclosed.

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