Police finalize pact to manage seized medical records

The Metropolitan Police Department has finalized its contract with a medical records company to organize the thousands of patient files seized during its investigation of the medical clinics blamed for the growing hepatitis C outbreak.

Under the contract, Massachusetts-based ChartOne Inc. will also index the files and fulfill requests for copies of patient records.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie signed the contract Thursday, a week after the Southern Nevada Health District said it couldn't handle the agreement for legal reasons. Police officials sped up the process under an emergency contract exemption in state law, which allowed them to bypass the regular bidding process and approval by the Metropolitan Police Department Fiscal Affairs Committee.

Acting on a tip that patient records might be destroyed, authorities seized more than 2,000 file boxes of records March 10 from six Gastroenterology Center of Nevada offices, the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and the Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center. Criminal investigations by Las Vegas police, the state attorney general's office and the FBI were ongoing.

Health officials have linked seven hepatitis C cases to the Endoscopy Center and one case to the Desert Shadow clinic. Investigators believe the infections were spread by staffers reusing syringes and single-use vials of anesthesia during endoscopic procedures.

Since seizing the records, Las Vegas police have received more than 1,400 requests for medical records from patients and lawyers but have fulfilled less than 100, in part because the records were in disarray when detectives found them at the medical offices.

ChartOne will move the records to another police facility and alphabetize the files, a process that should take four to five weeks, said Liesl Freedman, the Police Department's lawyer.

The company will also handle patient record requests. Patients will be given the first copy of their records for free with the Police Department paying the 25 cents-per-page cost, she said.

A hot line will be set up so patients can get information and check the status of their requests, she said.

The Police Department expects to pay $260,000, excluding copying costs, to Chart- One. Gillespie said he hopes to recoup the cost from the health district, Clark County and the city of Las Vegas.

Gillespie said he wanted to finish the contract as soon as possible so people can get the medical records they need.

"Under the circumstances, I don't think anyone would argue this isn't the right thing to do," Gillespie said. "We need to get those records organized, and we need to make them available to the people who need them."

Contact reporter Brian Haynes at bhaynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0281.