Health Care

Patient files meant for shredder end up in landfill, St. Francis Hospital says

St. Francis Hospital has a number of patients whose personal information could have been compromised when documents that should have been shredded were improperly disposed of, the hospital said in a news release late Wednesday.

The incident happened in January and the hospital did not say how many patients were impacted. Letters were sent to the patients’ last known address, in accordance with federal regulations, the release stated.

On Jan. 14, some administrative documents intended to be shredded were inadvertently picked up and improperly disposed of with the hospital’s regular waste. A day later hospital officials learned of the mistake.

The documents may have contained personal and/or billing information of some patients, including the patient’s name, date of birth, social security number, address, diagnosis, account number, final bill date, discharge date, last payment date, insurance balance or account balance, the release stated.

“St. Francis is taking this matter very seriously,” the release stated. “The hospital conducted an extensive investigation and has been informed that the documents are likely deeply buried in a landfill within a secure facility and are unable to be retrieved. At this time, St. Francis has no reason to believe the documents were actually used by any unauthorized individuals.”

The hospital has implemented measures to prevent this type of incident from happening again, including re-education on proper document management in accordance with hospital policy for all applicable staff, the release stated.

A hospital spokeswoman said no additional information, other than what was in the release, would be available.

St. Francis has established a toll-free number for individuals to call with questions or concerns. The toll free number is 877-646-8244 and is open Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. EST for the next 90 days.

Chuck Williams: 706-571-8510, @chuckwilliams