Attorney General sues former Cherokee Village hospital over patient records

Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 6:50 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 17, 2022 at 8:17 PM CDT
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ASH FLAT, Ark. (KAIT) - The search of an abandoned Sharp County hospital in 2021 led to thousands of patient and employee records being found, the Arkansas Attorney General’s office said Thursday.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed suit in Sharp County Circuit Court against the former Eastern Ozarks Regional Health System, alleging violations of the Personal Information Protection Act and the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

The hospital closed in Dec. 2004, with the property transferred to the state of Arkansas in 2010 due to a failure to pay taxes, Rutledge said in a media release. However, she said there were reports of large amounts of paperwork inside the hospital.

“Because the hospital and its clinics operated for about 9 years, the Attorney General estimates that there could be several thousands of files that were left behind in the unsecured buildings. These files contained Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, account information, medical information and biometric data,” Rutledge said.

The investigation began in 2021 when the Attorney General’s office toured the facility and found the files.

“The facility had been vandalized and was in serious disrepair. Many files throughout the property appeared to have been examined, likely by trespassers seeking to steal significant personal information,” Rutledge said.

In the lawsuit, authorities allege the former hospital did not take “reasonable steps to destroy or arrange for the destruction of a customer’s records within its custody or control containing personal information.”

In addition to patient records, authorities said in the suit that employees’ personal information was also found in the search.

No court date has been set in the case.

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