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Medical records left behind at Monsour a growing concern

Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Michael Monsour carries a garbage bag out of a building at the former Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette, where he was CEO. City Solicitor Scott Avolio toured the abandoned buildings earlier this month and found patient records, physician reviews and other HIPPA-protected information.

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By Amanda Dolasinski
Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

The former chief of the Monsour Medical Center was on his hands and knees Wednesday, sifting through trash at the hospital's decaying annex looking for financial records.

Although ex-CEO Michael Monsour removed the financial files, he did nothing to allay concerns about abandoned patient and physician records found last month at the Route 30 site.

Jeannette city attorney Scott Avolio said that after Monsour contacted him recently, he was under the impression that he would remove all records — financial, patient and physican — from the annex.

Monsour said he was not responsible for patient or physician records in the annex, so he would not touch them.

He said he was there in his capacity as president of Key Care Home Health, which leased the annex from the medical center in its final days. Monsour said he only removed Key Care business records from the site.

Avolio said the city will obtain a search warrant next week to enter all buildings on the medical center property and seize all records found.

At the same time, city officials will try to determine if the buildings pose an immediate danger to the public.

“We'll also be looking for mechanical records that we can analyze for demolition estimates,” said Avolio. City officials have said they don't have the $250,000 to $1 million needed to raze the structure.

Last month, officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services started an ongoing probe into whether federal privacy laws have been broken because the records are within easy reach of vandals and vagrants at the rundown complex.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials expressed interest in still-active physician identification codes on the records that permit holders to write prescriptions for controlled substances.

Monsour said the annex had been secured after the hospital closed and he was unaware that vandals had broken windows and doors permitting easy access to the building and the records inside.

“We're not sure when it was broken into,” he said. “We saw the article in the newspaper. Nobody had contacted us whatsoever and there was no outside damage that appeared to us.”

He said that as business at the hospital wound down six years ago “the building had been secured” in compliance with federal law.

“As soon as we found out it had been broken into, (I) came in. So, at this point, it doesn't look like any harm was done,” he said.

Monsour said the stone annex, the original six-bed clinic when the hospital was founded in the 1950s, was used to store medical records as officials waited for the state-mandated five years to elapse before they could destroy them.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or adolasinski@tribweb.com.

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