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CA Health Records Breaches Net $800,000 in Fines

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, November 22, 2010

The penalty is $25,000 for a medical facility breach of a patient's medical information, and another $17,500 for each subsequent breach. The state has received more than 4,101 breach reports, and has so far investigated 2,627. The 18 fines levied so far were for lapses classified as either willful or negligent, according to department spokesman Ralph Montano.

Dickfoss announced the fines one week after the state announced 12 fines totaling $575,000—authorized under a different set of laws—against 14 hospitals for causing immediate jeopardy to patient safety.

The breach fines levied last week are as follows:

1. Biggs Gridley Memorial Hospital in Gridley, Butte County, was assessed $60,000, a fine that was reduced to $5,000 under a special provision that allows leniency for small, rural or critical access facilities, according to state documents.  In this instance, a hospital employee who was not authorized to do so shared with three other employees the medical records of a coworker who had been hospitalized.

2. Children's Hospital of Orange County, was assessed $25,000 because one employee accessed unauthorized information about a co-worker's child who had been hospitalized and called her to discuss it. The parent of the hospitalized child told the employee they "did not want to discuss the child's hospitalization," according to state documents. 

3. Delano Regional Medical Center in Kern County was assessed $60,000 fine after an employee accessed sensitive information about the urine test results of a patient who was her sister in law, and "maliciously" related those results to the patient's mother and the patient's two sisters, according to state documents.

4. Kaweah Manor Convalescent Hospital in Visalia, Kern County, was assessed $125,000 after an elder abuse police investigation and the arrest of a physical therapy assistant, who allegedly stole personal identities of five patients, state records said. After a police search of the employee's property, credit cards were found that had been issued under one resident's name and "there was evidence that $16,000 for a home remodel application had been completed online," state documents said.

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