LA patient data breach compromises 33K patient records

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The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) has announced a privacy breach comprising more than 33,000 patient records housed at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center (MLK-MACC) in South Los Angeles, and the arrest of a suspect charged with one count of felony commercial burglary.

The MLK-MACC discovered the files missing on July 29, and immediately launched a search of the MLK-MACC campus for the files, and commenced an investigation. The files were stored in a secured and locked location at the facility.

The investigation relied on interviews of employees who had access to the location, including custodians who may have mistakenly sent the files for destruction. One employee confessed to taking the files to a recycling company for their paper value. At that time, MLK-MACC referred the matter to the sheriff, who conducted a law enforcement investigation.

The boxes contained demographic information including name, address, date of birth, medical record number, finance batch number and gender of patients who received care at the outpatient facility from January through October 2008. No specific medical, financial or social security information was included on the documents, DHS and LASD stated in the notice.

In the Sheriff's investigation, the suspect admitted to the theft of records for the sole purpose of recycling the content of the boxes for monetary gain. Currently, there is no indication that the information was stolen for the purpose of identity theft.

Individuals impacted by the breach will be notified by the facility by mail this week. The notification will include information on steps impacted individuals should take to protect themselves from potential harm. In response to the incident, the department has implemented enhanced security measures and will be conducting patient privacy retraining.

To address the concerns of those potentially impacted by the breach, DHS posted additional information, including steps that individuals can take to protect themselves from any potential harm resulting from this breach, on its website.

Individuals can call 877-418-6381 toll-free to see if they have been impacted.