Doctor pays $40,000 fine for dumping 1,600 patients' medical records

Published: Sep. 7, 2011 at 4:47 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2011 at 4:47 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Charlotte doctor was forced to pay a hefty fine for dumping his patients' financial and medical information in the summer of 2010.

WBTV first covered the story about Dr. Ervin Batchelor of the Carolina Center for Development and Rehabilitation in mid-June 2010. Now, Dr. Batchelor has paid $40,000 as a fine, according to a statement released by the NC Attorney General's Office.

Earlier WBTV story: Medical records found at recycling center

Batchelor owns and operates Carolina Center, a psychological testing and treatment facility located at 6813 Fairview Road Suite D in Charlotte.

His office illegally disposed of 1,000 patient files by dumping them at the West Mecklenburg Recycling Center in June of 2010.

Officials said the files contained info for 1,600 people with data such as: names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, drivers' license numbers, insurance account numbers, and health information.

Sherri Dobbins of Charlotte had a file that was one of hundreds of patients whose personal information was discarded in the trash bin.

"What if the wrong people got hold of it, and two or three months from now my identity -- I find out somebody's taken my identity?" Dobbins told WBTV when the files were first found.  "All the information they needed was right there in that file."

The records were accidentally discarded in a public recycling bin and thrown out by the doctor's sons during a move from one office to another, Batchelor's attorney told WBTV last year.

The sons mistakenly took the 25 boxes of medical files containing social security numbers, medical histories and pictures of patients to the West Mecklenburg Recycling Center on Byrum Road somewhere between June 22-24, the attorney told WBTV.

Many of the records were from 2007-2009.  By law, medical providers are required to keep patient records for at least six years before discarding them.  State law also requires when records are to be discarded, they should be burned, pulverized or shredded to protect patient privacy.

"Any business you entrust with your information has a duty to keep it safe," Attorney General Roy Cooper said. "Sensitive financial and health information should never be carelessly dumped, putting customers and patients at risk of identity theft."

The Attorney General's office says medical records also face additional restrictions under federal health privacy laws.

The patients whose information was placed at risk have been notified by the Attorney General's Office.

If you know of a business improperly discarding files containing someone's personal information, call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

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