Computers with patient data stolen from Nagasaki hospital

September 24, 2006

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Six notebook computers with data on about 9,000 patients have been stolen from Nagasaki University Hospital of Medicine and Dentistry in Nagasaki, a university official said.

The data contained names, gender, dates of birth, and diagnoses of people who visited the hospital's hematology division since the early 1990s, the official said.

The computers were stolen sometime between 11 p.m. on Sept. 14 and 8 a.m. the next day. The university reported the case to the police immediately, the official said.

A graduate student noticed the computers were missing when he arrived at a laboratory on the first floor of the four-story Atomic Bomb Disease Institute building on the morning of Sept 15, according to the university.

Along with the six computers that had been placed on desks, eight USB memory units, two hard disks and 60,000 yen stored in a drawer were stolen, the official said.

The computers also contained data on another 3,000 patients' symptoms, though their names had been encoded. The data, based on patients' medical files, had been stored there for educational and academic purposes, and some of them contained detailed descriptions on the patient's medical histories, the official said.

An assistant physician, who was the last person to leave the laboratory on Sept. 14, told the university he locked all four entrances before leaving the room, but the first student who came to the room the next morning found one of the entrances and a window unlocked, the official said. More than 10 members of the faculty and students have keys to the laboratory, the official said.

Although the university has a rule stating that faculty members set passwords to restrict access to personal data stored in computers, passwords had been set for only about 2,000 patients, the official said.

Hirotoshi Fukunaga, a regent of the university, apologized for "the lack of awareness on protecting private information," at a press conference Friday.

main page ATTRITION feedback