A federal agency has received a civil rights complaint about a former Kansas abortion provider's disposal of hundreds of patients' medical records in a recycling bin, an official said Friday. Meanwhile, a state regulatory board is working on an agreement on the permanent custody of other files still in his possession.
Leon Rodriguez, director of the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said it received a complaint March 26 about Krishna Rajanna's handling of confidential patient files. The complaint came two days after a woman discovered the documents in a bin outside an elementary school near Rajanna's home in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park.
The records were from Affordable Medical and Surgical Services, a Kansas City, Kan., clinic where Rajanna performed abortions. It closed in 2005, shortly after the State Board of Healing Arts revoked Rajanna's medical license over clinic conditions.
Rodriguez's agency enforces federal laws dealing with patient privacy and the security of medical records, and he said in an email statement that it referred the complaint about Rajanna to the regional Office of Civil Rights in Kansas City, Mo., for review. He declined to discuss the content of the complaint.
Rajanna has said he was trying to dispose of files he no longer had to keep under a state law requiring providers to retain records for 10 years and thought the bin would be emptied quickly. He declined to comment Thursday about the complaint.
But he confirmed he is working with the Board of Healing Arts, which oversees doctors in Kansas, on an agreement covering the remaining records in his possession.
"We're trying to do the best we can," he said.
Kelli Stevens, the board's general counsel, said it confirmed Rajanna had moved his remaining patient files to "a secure, confidential" location while the board works to settle who ultimately will have custody. She said Rajanna still has about three years' worth of patient records, though she couldn't say how many patients were involved.
The board has limited jurisdiction over Rajanna because he's no longer licensed in Kansas, but he still has legal obligations to keep former patients' records confidential.
District Attorney Steve Howe of Johnson County said he does not believe there are grounds under Kansas law to file a criminal case against Rajanna or that Rajanna's actions violated state consumer protection laws. Told about the complaint to the federal agency, Howe said, "I'm happy that someone's able to move forward with it."
If the HHS Office of Civil Rights believes a criminal violation of federal privacy laws has occurred, it can refer a case to the U.S. Justice Department. Jim Cross, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Kansas, said his office has not been asked to investigate the matter. The HHS office also can pursue corrective action by a health care provider or civil fines if it concludes a violation occurred.
The discarded documents were discovered March 24 by a woman dumping materials for recycling. She contacted local police, who initially didn't respond, then her daughter, a nurse. The daughter contacted The Kansas City Star, which reported their discovery. The discarded records were later turned over to the Board of Healing Arts.
While Rajanna has said he complied with the law to keep records for at least 10 years, The Star reported hundreds of the discarded files were dated after March 2002. Stevens said the board still is cataloguing those documents and has been contacted by a few patients who want to know whether their files are included.
"There are some that are definitely over 10 years old," she said. "Right now, we're just going to maintain them."
Rajanna's actions have been condemned by advocates on both sides of the abortion debate. In recent years, Kansas has seen intense legal and political disputes over whether giving authorities access to information in medical records for investigations of providers would violate patients' privacy.
The Board of Healing Arts revoked Rajanna's Kansas license in 2005 after fining or disciplining him four times since 2000. An inspector who made two surprise visits to his clinic in 2005 reported the facility was unclean and that it kept syringes of medications in an unlocked refrigerator. The inspector also reported finding a dead mouse.
Kansas State Board of Healing Arts: http://www.ksbha.org/
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