Patient Information "Disappears" from Montgomery Psychiatric Hospital

May 16, 2008

It's a place where patients hope for a high standard of care and, above all, privacy.

Now, Montgomery's Greil Hospital has a information leak on its hands.

"Several months ago we noticed something irregular in some patient records," explained Dr. John Ziegler of the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation.

Department staffers say index cards containing personal information--names, dates of birth, even Social Security numbers--are gone.

"We're looking at records and patient information that goes back 5 or 6 years," Ziegler explained.

All in all, Ziegler says, hundreds of records have simply disappeared. Staffers sent out mailings to those affected by the breach, telling them that their personal information was compromised.

It's a problem patient rights advocates say is unacceptable.

"Any time someone's personal information goes out, there's no limit to how devastating the fraud can be," explained Bill Hawkins of AARP.

With that in mind, mental health employees are working hard to tie up the loose ends, alerting patients and stopping any potential identity theft before it starts.

"We're being very proactive in this incident," Ziegler said. "So far, we have no indication that anyone's has been compromised."

That's bittersweet news for hundreds of patients whose private information is in someone else's hands.

"They just don't think of this, and they can get into a world of trouble and a world of hurt," Hawkins said.

main page ATTRITION feedback