L.A. County Sheriff's Department officials discovered last week that a janitor in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center in Willowbrook, CA, sold boxes containing 33,000 patient records to a recycling center.
The Los Angeles Times broke the story Friday that Robert Sanders, 55, took 14 boxes containing addresses, phone numbers and other demographic patient information and sold them for $40 for their paper value. He was charged with felony commercial burglary.
The hospital discovered the missing files in July.
Reached Monday by phone, a spokesperson at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services said the hospital regrets the incident but ensures the boxes were in a "secure place."
"These records were not just out in a hallway," the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson also told HealthLeaders Media that the information contained no Social Security numbers or medical records numbers and rather demographic information on patients from 2008.
The hospital is "re-doubling" its efforts to ensure its records stay confidential and within the facility, the spokesperson said. It has complied with all notification requirements, established a toll-free number and is notifying the affected patients.
One HIPAA privacy and security expert said hospitals can avoid records falling in the wrong hands by having an officer account for them at all times.