News & Events

Hospital says 800K records may be missing

July 19, 2010 03:32 PM


By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff

South Shore Hospital in Weymouth says computer files containing personal information for about 800,000 people were lost when they were being shipped to a contractor for destruction.

The backup computer files were shipped out on Feb. 26, 2010, the hospital said. When the company did not provide certificates of destruction, the hospital inquired and learned from the company that only a portion of the files had been received and destroyed. A search is underway for the missing files.

"I am deeply sorry that these files may have been lost," Richard H. Aubut, the hospital president and chief executive, said in a statement. "Safeguarding confidentiality is fundamental to our mission of healing, caring, and comforting. I recognize that this situation is unacceptable and would like to personally apologize to all those who have trusted us with their sensitive information."

The hospital said the information on the files could include people’s names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, medical record numbers, patient numbers, health plan information, dates of service, and information on diagnoses and treatments. For a very small subset of people, bank account and credit card information was included.

The files included data on patients, employees, doctors, volunteers, donors, vendors, and other business partners. The files covered a 14-year period from Jan. 1, 1996, to Jan. 6, 2010, the hospital said.

The hospital said that experts had confirmed, though, that it would take specialized software and hardware expertise to open and decipher the files.

The hospital said it immediately launched an investigation that has included working with the data management company and shippers to try to locate the files. The state attorney general’s office, the state Public Health Department, and the US Department of Health and Human Services have been notified, the hospital said.