Hospital worker at Massachusetts Eye and Ear charged with ID theft

Jack Encarnacao reports:

Police say a Quincy woman who worked at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and her brother used stolen patient information to open fake National Grid accounts that allowed them to dodge paying for electricity.

Fallon and Emmanuel Delacruz of 270 Quarry St. have been charged with identity theft and larceny.

Fallon Delacruz, 25, who also has a Dorchester address, was dismissed from her job after police made her employer aware of the investigation. A police report on file in Quincy District Court says Delacruz worked as a patient financial coordinator.

Mass. Eye and Ear has offered one year of free credit monitoring to potentially affected patients, and sent mail notifications to about 3,600 patients whose Social Security numbers Delacruz was able to access.

Read more on The Patriot Ledger.

The breach was actually disclosed by Massachusetts Eye and Ear last month. In an April 16th statement on their web site linked from their home page, they wrote:

On March 5, 2012, the Quincy, Massachusetts, Police Department informed Mass. Eye and Ear that they were investigating a Mass. Eye and Ear employee for inappropriately using the names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth of certain individuals, some of whom were believed to be Mass. Eye and Ear patients.

The hospital promptly suspended the employee, who was subsequently dismissed and no longer works at Mass. Eye and Ear. Mass. Eye and Ear determined that four of the individuals identified by the Quincy Police Department are Mass. Eye and Ear patients, and that the employee would have had access to certain personal information about them in order to perform her assigned duties.

The Quincy Police Department has informed us that they are not aware of any credit card theft. Mass. Eye and Ear is also not aware of any inappropriate access to, or use of, medical information.

While Mass. Eye and Ear is only aware of four individuals whose personal information was actually misused, as a precaution we are notifying, by mail, approximately 3,600 patients whose Social Security numbers were available to the former employee in the course of performing her assigned duties.

Mass. Eye and Ear will provide one year of free credit monitoring to potentially affected individuals to protect them against possible harm resulting from this incident.

“Please be assured that we take the protection of our patients’ personal information very seriously,” said Mass. Eye and Ear President and CEO John Fernandez. “We are saddened and disappointed that this former employee appears to have chosen to violate both our trust and that of our patients. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and concern caused by this incident.”

In order to reduce the chance of similar incidents in the future, Mass. Eye and Ear has taken steps to further restrict access to full Social Security numbers among our staff. Mass. Eye and Ear has been and will continue to perform appropriate background checks as part of the hiring process, and regularly reinforce with our staff the importance of safeguarding patient information.

Should you have any questions regarding this situation, please call the Mass. Eye and Ear Assistance Line at 877-313-1395.

There have been a number of insider breaches in the news recently in the healthcare sector. Maybe we need more criminal HIPAA prosecutions…?

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