Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Monday, November 5, 2001


Action Prevents Abandonment of Tri City Health Centre's Patient Records

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn and the Texas Department of Health reached an agreement with the bankruptcy trustee of Tri City Health Centre of Dallas regarding the disposition of an estimated 400,000 patient medical records that were in danger of abandonment.

Tri City, formerly serving the Pleasant Grove neighborhood in South Dallas, closed last year and is being liquidated under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The trustee had sought the court's permission to abandon these patient records as too burdensome in the management of the bankruptcy estate. Now, at the urging of the Attorney General's office, the court will allow former patients and physicians to obtain these records well before they are destroyed.

Under the terms of the agreed order approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, all of the patient records will be transferred to EMCC Inc.,which currently collects on the defunct hospital's accounts. EMCC has agreed to store the records for the next12 months at its own expense. After that time the court can again review the arguments of the parties regarding the ultimate disposition of the records.

"Medical privacy ranks as a high priority to our citizens,"said Attorney General Cornyn. "Understanding this, I am pleased we were able to preserve these records for at least another year and, under the terms of the order, we can be assured that both the paper and electronic records of this hospital will never fall into the wrong hands. Ultimately the records will be disposed of in a way that protects patient confidentiality and conforms with all privacy laws."

Cornyn's bankruptcy lawyers, on behalf of the TDH, strenuously objected in court to the proposed abandonment of the records. The attorneys cited patient privacy laws and other applicable state laws that call for hospitals to maintain their records for up to 10 years. The trustee argued that without any funds remaining in the bankruptcy estate, he is financially unable to store the records and thus sought permission to abandon them.

The order ensures that if and when the court no longer requires the records to be maintained, they must be thoroughly destroyed to render paper documents illegible. This could be done by shredding or burning. Further, all electronic records must be permanently destroyed, such as by drilling through the computer hard drives, to fully protect patient privacy.

Patients and physicians wanting to obtain originals or copies of their hospital records may contact EMCC at P.O. Box 807, Castroville, TX, 78009-0807. The toll-free number is 888/672-7892.

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