LAPORTE, Ind. — REAL News Michiana has been provided photos and videos showing thousands of patient files simply abandoned at the old LaPorte Hospital in Downtown LaPorte. The files contain social security numbers, birth dates, healthcare information, even pictures of surgeries and naked bodies. In response to our investigation and inquiries into the HIPAA violations, Northwest Health requested RNM destroy the evidence we obtained.
In one utility room located in the facility, hundreds of files are simply scattered across the floor in what appears to be an area that has already been ransacked. In other rooms located in the old building, there are shred bins that are still full of sensitive information. Sources, who wish not to be named out of fear of retaliation, even tell RNM bins of body parts were discovered in the Emergency Room area with patient information also attached. RNM is publishing some of those photos with sensitive information redacted. However, out of an abundance of caution, RNM is not sharing video from taken inside of the building.
The old hospital was vacated after Northwest Health constructed a new hospital that opened in 2020. Demolition of the old facility located at 1007 Lincolnway was to begin over the summer of 2022 and was supposed to be completed this spring. However, issues between the hospital system and the demolition company delayed the project. In fact, the hospital system took back control of the building from the demolition company earlier this month, according to sources.
When questioned about the files and obvious HIPAA violations, a spokesperson for Northwest Health requested RNM destroy the evidence we had obtained.
"To help protect the private personal information of individuals within the documents or photos you may have, we respectfully request you to return any documents you obtained to Rhonda Willis, privacy officer for Northwest Health - La Porte, delete any digital photos and their copies containing private personal information, and sign and return the attached Attestation of Destruction." Northwest Health Spokesperson, Kelly Credit, wrote in an email with a PDF Attestation of Destruction attached (please see below).
"We take our privacy obligations very seriously and are committed to protecting the privacy of personal information that we collect and/or maintain. We regret this incident and are investigating." Credit also wrote. "The company engaged to demolish the building also had responsibility for securing the premises. We are working with law enforcement to investigate the matter, including any vandalism that may have occurred. Patients whose personal information may have been affected in this incident will be notified directly by US mail as soon as possible."
REAL News Michiana responded to Credit by questioning the hospital system's motives in requesting we destroy evidence provided to us by a source for this story.
"You’re asking a journalist to destroy evidence and sign paperwork telling you I did it?" RNM responded in an email on March 7th. As of March 15th, Credit had not sent a response.
Credit would not tell RNM why the files were still on site, who was responsible for their removal or disposal or if the files were to be destroyed or transferred to the new facility.
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I used to work there and I know how seriously they took patient privacy – extremely. How this could have happened, all I can guess is that it must have come about in the rush to get moved from the old campus to the new one. This is not the way they always treated patients’ medical info and I’m sure they were horrified to find that this happened. Fact remains that it did.