A self-storage auction scheduled for next week in St. Petersburg, Fla., is on hold after a consumer complained to the state that the unit may contain patient medical records and, therefore, sensitive information such as Social Security numbers and birth dates.
Tabetha Swartz, a research coordinator at Bayfront Medical Center, read in the newspaper that a self-storage unit rented by her former physician, Dr. Ana Oquendo, was to be auctioned by Budget Self Storage on 25th Street N. Swartz appealed to the state to prevent the sale.
According to the self-storage manager, Barry Smith, there is nothing in the state’s law regarding the auctioning of self-storage units that contain records. Doctors are required to keep former patients' records for at least five years, but the law does not stipulate what should happen to them after that. A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health said there is no list of approved ways to dispose of medical records, but the physician is responsible for maintaining their confidentiality.
Tammie Lockwood, vice president of St. Petersburg-based Storage Auction Protection Services, is working with Budget Mini Storage on the sale. She said she makes bidders sign a document promising to turn in any records, personal paperwork or photographs found in units, but it’s a difficult rule to enforce.
Lockwood said Oquendo was sent a certified letter notifying her of the auction and two legal notices appeared in the newspaper. Oquendo has until the auction date to pay her rent and re-possess the unit. According to Oquendo’s son and office manager, the doctor is trying to resolve the issue.
Lockwood said Smith offered to give the records to a state investigator who inquired about the auction, and he didn’t want them. She also said she will cancel the sale if the issue is not resolved and there are clearly records in the unit on the day of the sale.
Smith said a storage unit at his facility that was rented to a chiropractor, now deceased, is also awaiting auction. It too could contain medical records.
Source: TampaBay.com, Medical records may end up on the auction block