The personal information of 1.7 million patients, hospital staff and associated employees was recently stolen, and city officials are notifiying potential victims to warn them about the loss of the files.
The files were reported stolen in late December from a van operated by GRM Information Management Services, when the driver left the van unattended and unlocked.
The city's Health and Hospitals Corporation says the files contain personal health records along with names, addresses, Social Security numbers and other private information.
The affected facilities are Jacobi Medical Center, North Central Bronx Hospital, Tremont Health Center and Gunhill Health Center.
Patients who have received care at North Bronx Healthcare Network hospitals since 1991 could have had their information stolen. Those who have worked at those centers also could be affected.
HHC has sent out letters to possible theft victims, has offered one year of free credit protection services and set up a hotline and special customer care centers. HHC also reported the incident to federal state and oversight boards, ended its contract with GRM, and filed a lawsuit against the GRM organization.
GRM did not respond to calls for comment.
According to HHC spokeswoman Pamela McDonnell, the data is not readily accessible without “highly specialized and technical expertise and certain tools.”
“The person who took them probably wouldn’t know what to do with them,” she said. “The files just look like cassette tapes in a box.”
McDonnell said there is no evidence the information has been used. Letters went out in recent days, and McDonnell said that she did not believe any patients have called the hotline so far.
The HHC has experienced two file thefts in the past, according to McDonnell. A laptop was stolen from a secured office space, and a CD shipment was lost by a private vendor. Both cases involved a much smaller amount of information and affected a limited number of patients, she said.
“We value and protect privacy and confidentiality and deeply regret any inconvenience and concern this may create for our patients, staff and others affected,” HHC President Alan D. Aviles said in a statement.
Those who think they are affected should call the hotline at 1-877-412-7148 or 311.