A spokeswoman for a recently closed Planned Parenthood facility in Iowa says hard copies of the private information of about 2,500 patients were left behind at the Dubuque building and may have been accessed by unauthorized individuals.
“In anyone’s institutional memory, we cannot remember seeing a breach of this scale in decades at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland,” Rachel Lopez said, reports the Telegraph Herald.
Lopez said the data from patient records from August 1, 2008 through April 30, 2014 were left behind at the facility at 3365 Hillcrest Road and were found by the building’s new owner — pro-life crisis pregnancy center Clarity Clinic — on May 6. She added that Planned Parenthood sent letters to the affected patients on July 1.
Regarding the nearly two months lag time between the discovery of the documents by the new owner and the patient notifications, Lopez said, “We took that time to exhaustively research what occurred, how it occurred, the number of patients who might have been impacted and specifically who those patients are.”
Meanwhile, the private information that may have been breached includes patients’ names, addresses, Social Security numbers, medical and insurance information, diagnostic information, treatments given, and lab results.
According to the news report, Clarity Clinic executive director Kris Nauman said the documents containing the private data were discovered during a final walk-through at the facility prior to the closing on the building on May 6. She noted the data was found in a closet, in “copy paper boxes” that were not sealed.
“We had a board member who was on the walk-through,” Nauman said. “He pulled the file, realized what it was and immediately put it back.”
She added that the real estate agent handling the sale of the building immediately contacted Planned Parenthood, and a representative from Clarity Clinic contacted the Iowa Board of Medicine to inform them of the data’s discovery. Nauman said it was 10 days later when a Planned Parenthood official picked up the private patient information.
“The information was discovered by the new (owners) in the building,” Lopez acknowledged. “As far as we know, they alerted us as soon as they learned about this information. They were immediately respectful of the contents (within the boxes) and entirely cooperative.”
Lopez also agreed that Clarity Clinic left a voicemail with Planned Parenthood on May 6 – the day the data were discovered. She said, however, the message was not received until May 13, when it was heard by maintenance staff.
“We have reached out to every patient who was potentially affected and advised them of the breach,” Lopez said, adding that patients have been urged to contact the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection.
“This particular incident was an unfortunate oversight and not indicative of any larger personnel or security issues,” she said.
“Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is deeply committed to the privacy and confidentiality our patients have come to expect and reply upon,” chief clinical officer Penny Dickey said in a statement, reports KCRG-TV9. “We sincerely regret that this incident occurred, and are currently conducting a comprehensive examination of our processes to ensure such an incident will never occur again.”
Planned Parenthood closed the Dubuque facility on April 29 after a decline in demand for services.
According to its website, Clarity Clinic Crisis Pregnancy Center provides “free and confidential” medical services, including pregnancy tests, limited obstetrical ultrasound, post-abortion supportive counseling for men and women, pregnancy options education, sexual health education, and selected tests for sexually transmitted diseases. The clinic also provides free birth and delivery classes to new mothers and fathers