Update to the Samaritan Hospital breach

Once again, information on a breach at Samaritan Hospital comes out late on a Friday. If letters went out Wednesday, why didn’t they issue a press release then?

More details have emerged on the Samaritan Hospital breach discussed previously on this blog. Bob Gardinier of the Times Union reports:

Two nurses are targets of the investigation into the illegal access of 23 medical records belonging to jail personnel and some outside private individuals, including employees’ family members and, in one case, a neighbor of a jail guard, county officials have confirmed.

You can read excerpts from the notification letter in his report on the Times Union.

The breaches reportedly started at some point in 2008 and continued until November 16, 2011, when the access was terminated. Hospital personnel reportedly did not adhere to good security practices as the password to access the network “was taped to a computer console in the nurses’ office or left in a drawer so it is possible that anyone with access to the office could have used it,” according to the county’s labor attorney.

Apparently, this wasn’t the end of breach problems for the hospital. Gardinier reports:

Last week, information surfaced that a jail guard may have breached medical information, or had someone do it for him, to find information about his neighbor’s child, who was bitten by the guard’s dog and treated in the emergency room.

Sheriff Jack Mahar has said that simultaneous internal and criminal investigations are under way.

There is still no explanation  as to why the hospital needed to delay notification for so long. As I’ve indicated before, if the sheriff really asked them not to notify and they documented that with every extension requested, I think they may be in the clear as far as HITECH’s notification requirements, but of course, they may face serious inquiry as to how this went on for so long without being prevented or detected, and why, if so many people knew the password had been left lying around, the hospital seemingly neither knew nor stopped the practice.

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