A couple of city parking enforcement officers on routine patrol in downtown St. John’s Friday morning found something more interesting than illegally parked cars. Randy Bragg and Kerwin Thomas discovered a huge mess — hundreds of papers scattered on a parking lot between Duckworth Street and Henry Street.
But it was more than just garbage.
When the men began cleaning up the mess, they discovered it was actually confidential medical records.
The documents included everything from patient medical backgrounds, surgery information, urology reports, doctor-to-doctor correspondence and doctors’ dictated notes on ultrasound photos, and a voice recording device.
“They were everywhere,” Bragg said, stashing a handful of papers into a large briefcase, which they also found nearby.
The documents blanketed the side of the hill and parking lot and had blown across Duckworth Street, onto the road and sidewalks.
Some of the sheets were so wet, the men couldn’t pick them up.
The patients’ and doctors’ names could be clearly read.
A businessman passing by also picked up some of the papers and handed them to the attendants.
“I was coming down this way,” Bragg said pointing to the top of Henry Street, “and Kerwin was coming the other way at the same time, when we both saw it all.
“When we saw what they were, we figured we would pick them up as soon as we could.
“I mean, this is pretty private stuff.”
The men also discovered broken glass in the parking lot, along with a vehicle that had passenger windows missing and plastic covering them.
Minutes later, at around 10 a.m., as the men were scouring the area to ensure they had collected all the papers, a blue car pulled up. The male driver informed them that his car had been parked on the lot Thursday night and that a laptop computer had been stolen from it.
The men immediately called the police.
They waited on the parking lot for close to an hour before officers showed up.
They spoke briefly to the police before handing over the briefcase filled with the material they’d collected.
Provincial court co-ordinator Tamara Church was one of the first to spot the scattered papers, when she was parking her car nearby.
She was on her way to an important meeting but had time to grab a few sheets.
“When I saw what they were,” Church said, “I called Eastern Health right away but I just got voice mail. So I left a message, hoping someone would get it.”
RNC spokeswoman Const. Suzanne FitzGerald said officers returned the documents to their rightful owner.
“The complainant did report their vehicle broken into,” FitzGerald said.
“Therefore the RNC (is) investigating the (car break-in) and the found property complaint.”
In an statement emailed to The Telegram, Eastern Health spokeswoman Jackie O’Brien confirmed the documents belonged to a practising physician, who had them stolen from his car.
“At this time, we can confirm that the majority of the documents were not the property of Eastern Health,” she said.
She said most of the documents have been retrieved and have been returned to the physician.
“As per our protocol regarding a potential privacy breach, an internal investigation has been initiated,” O’Brien said.
“This investigation involves contacting the patients involved and providing full disclosure of the issue.
“Eastern Health regrets that this incident has occurred and will be reiterating the importance of protecting patient information with our physicians.”