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July 27th, 2008

Intruder Gains Access To 128,000 Patients Database In Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center Website Breach

Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center recently discovered that an intruder may have gained access to a proprietary database through the on-line registration area of Saint Mary’s public facing website. The database is used for health education classes and wellness programs and contains personal information including name, address, limited health information and some Social Security numbers. The database did not contain any hospital medical records or credit card numbers. The potential breach was discovered in April 28.

Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center sent warning letters this month to about 128,000 patients and clients. Saint Mary’s officials said they immediately shut down the database and launched an investigation with Equifax, which is one of the three major credit agencies. The medical center hired the Equifax company to investigate the breach, reconstruct the database, set up a dedicated hot line and compile addresses for the notification of customers.

According to same officials, the delay (almost 3 months) in notifications occurred because the database had to be reconstructed. Saint Mary’s has no evidence that any identity theft or fraud has occurred as a result of this incident, but is notifying in writing all persons whose information was included in the database.

Several recipients of the letters expressed concern about the nature of the database, including its size, about 128,000 records, and how their information was collected. Saint Mary’s officials said they were trying to determine if everyone affected was informed and the records were compiled properly. Others wondered how Saint Mary’s managed to find them and whether the center keeps personal information for decades after treatment. Saint Mary’s officials said the database is “absolutely separate” from hospital medical records.

Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center have put new security measures in place to minimize the likelihood of this occurring again, said Saint Mary’s president and CEO. Free credit monitoring is being offered to those customers whose Social Security numbers were in the database. More information is available on Saint Mary’s website at, or by calling Saint Mary’s infoline at 775-770-7711.

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