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Kaiser Agrees to $49 Million Settlement for Illegal Hazardous Waste and Patient Information Dumping

Human RightsKaiser Agrees to $49 Million Settlement for Illegal Hazardous Waste and Patient Information Dumping

Kaiser, California’s largest healthcare provider, has agreed to a $49 million settlement with the State Attorney General’s Office and six district attorneys for illegal dumping of hazardous waste, medical waste, and the protected health information of over 7,000 patients at Kaiser facilities across the state. The violations were discovered through undercover inspections conducted between 2015 and 2017 by district attorney’s offices in Alameda, San Bernardino, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, and Yolo counties. The California Department of Justice later joined the investigation.

The lawsuit, filed in San Joaquin County Superior Court, names Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals as defendants. Kaiser was found to have improperly characterized waste generated at its facilities, failed to properly contain and label waste, used unregistered transporters, neglected to prepare required shipping and tracking documentation, did not adequately train employees, and failed to shred or destroy papers containing protected health information.

Investigators found large quantities of improperly discarded medical waste, bodily fluids, syringes, medical tubing, pharmaceuticals, and hazardous items such as aerosols, cleaning products, and batteries in dumpsters from 16 Kaiser facilities. Additionally, over 10,000 paper records containing information on at least 7,700 patients were discovered. Instead of being sent to hazardous waste disposal sites, these dumpsters were destined for municipal landfills, posing serious risks to public health and the environment.

Kaiser’s careless disposal of patient records, including sensitive information about surgeries and procedures, was also criticized as a violation of patients’ privacy, potentially exposing them to medical identity theft.

As part of the settlement, Kaiser will pay $47.2 million, including civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and costs, and funds for environmental projects. They must also undergo extensive auditing and monitoring to ensure compliance with waste disposal laws.

The violations of Kaiser’s waste disposal practices not only violated state laws but also raised concerns about compliance with federal regulations, including HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). It’s worth noting that this is not the first time Kaiser has faced legal action related to data breaches and waste disposal mismanagement.

Kaiser has committed to remedying these issues through a three-step approach that includes assessments, training, and improved waste disposal practices.

This settlement emphasizes the importance of proper waste disposal, safeguarding sensitive medical information, and complying with environmental and privacy regulations, particularly for healthcare providers like Kaiser.

By FCCT Editorial Team

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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