Effects of Veteran Matters and Sutter Health HIPAA Breaches Exposed

June 23, 2018


An ex-member of workforce at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center situated in Long Beach, CA who unlawfully thieved the protected health information (PHI) of more than 1,000 patients has been given a three-year jail punishment.

Albert Torres, 51, was employed as an office worker in the Long Beach Health System-operated medical hospital – a job he held for less than 12 months. Torres was blocked over by police officers on April 12 after an examination of his license plates demonstrated an inconsistency – plates had been used on a private automobile, which were usually reserved for commercial automobiles.

The police officers found prescription medicines which Torres’ didn’t have a legal medicine for and the Social Security numbers and other PHI of 14 patients in his car. A search of Torres’ house demonstrated he had hard drives and zip drives saving the PHI of 1,030 patients and over $1,000 in cleaning goods that had been unlawfully taken from the hospital.

After entering a guilty plea to a number of wrongdoings, including identity thievery and large thievery, Torres was given a three-years punishment in state prison on June 4.

In the meantime, an unknown number of staff members of Sutter Health have had their service ended for retrieving the medical files of patients without formal approval.

CBS 13 Sacramento disclosed that an unknown source had informed them that Sutter Health had dismissed two members of staff for searching for the medical records of the doubted Golden State Killer, Joseph DeAngelo.

As a result of the news report broadcast by CBS 13, Sutter Health representative Gary Zavoral issued a statement verifying action had been taken in reaction to the improper seeing of PHI, as per the Sacramento Business Journal.

Although Zavoral didn’t disclose the number of workers that had been sacked, nor the patient or patients whose medical files were taken, he did verify that the workers guilty of the crime had been fired.

Sutter Health has a procedure ready that generates warnings when employees see medical files without permission. When incorrect access is found, it usually leads to dismissal.

Along with sacking the guilty workers, Sutter Health has reminded all workers that the retrieving of medical files is only permissible when there is a genuine work reason for doing so. The person(s) whose medical files were obtained are being made informed of the secrecy breach.