Video: Medical records sold at thrift store

updated 3/10/2008 2:28:08 PM ET 2008-03-10T18:28:08

The medical records of 28 Central Florida Regional Hospital patients were sold last month at a Salt Lake City surplus store for about $20, a newspaper reported.

The records were sold to a local school teacher looking for scrap paper for her fourth-grade class, The Deseret Morning News of Salt Lake City reported Monday. The mixup is being blamed on a shipping problem.

"I'm aghast," said Marcy Lippincott, a Florida attorney whose father's records were among those sold. "I'm wondering who to sue. It's a complete invasion of privacy. It's appalling to think your records can be out there somewhere like that."

The records contained detailed medical histories, phone numbers, addresses, Social Security numbers and insurance information. Several of the patients whose information was lost are dead.

In December, the box was one of three shipped to a Las Vegas company for a Medicare audit, said Kelly Ferrell, the hospital's risk manager. Hospital officials had been tracking the box since it was reported missing in Phoenix but did not contact the affected patients, she said.

"We worry about wrongful disclosure. That information is very personal," she said.

The packages were certified and sent by UPS, Ferrell said. When one of the boxes didn't arrive, a Las Vegas auditor on Feb. 4 contacted hospital officials who, in turn, contacted UPS two weeks later.

Officials said they're unsure how the box made its way to Utah, though the package containing the records also had a document indicating it was sold because the shipping company could not deliver it or find its owner.

Shipping companies often sell off packages that cannot be delivered. A UPS spokesman said his company keeps packages for at least three months before liquidating them.

The package containing the records was eventually sold as scrap paper at National Product Sales.

Hospital spokesman Craig A. Bair said officials were looking at ways to ensure they did not have this problem again.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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