By Brittany Bade.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – At first glance, it just looked like a lot of litter lining the street, but when concerned citizens stopped to look, they realized these discarded papers hold information no one would want out in the open.
“I’m floored. I don’t even know yet how I feel,” said a patient named Renee.
Renee is one of dozens of patients who had their personal medical information scattered along Avenida Cesar Chavez at I-25.
“It’s personal information. I had to sign a HIPAA form to protect my privacy,” said Renee.
On these documents, are patients private medical histories, social security numbers and billing information.
“That’s a HIPPA violation right there,” said a woman who stopped to help pick up the papers.
The records are all from the Turquoise Lodge Hospital, a state-run rehabilitation center specializing in treating pregnant women and parents trying to get clean.
The New Mexico Department of Health refused an interview with KRQE News 13, agreeing only to send this statement:
“We take the security and privacy of patient health information very seriously. Turquoise Lodge was in the process of transporting patient records yesterday from the hospital to a secure facility. As soon as we were made aware of the misplaced records, we sent a team out to recover as many documents as possible. We have immediately launched an investigation and will follow all requirements under patient privacy laws to further protect the privacy of all patients and their health information.”
When asked if the department will contact patients to let them know if their personal information has been compromised, they said they would.
Concerned people who say they saw the papers fly out of a truck stopped to pick up the mess. The Department of Health says they also sent a crew out Friday to pick up the remainder of the papers.
Still, patients, like Renee, are concerned someone with bad intentions was also out there picking up the pieces filled with their personal information. The documents were out on the streets for at least 12 hours.