** THIS STORY WAS UPDATED AUGUST 14, 2014: http://wavy.com/2014/08/14/woman-wont-be-charged-for-medical-records-left-on-curb/
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — There are still conflicting reports about how thousands of medical documents ended up on a street curb in Portsmouth last week.
On Friday, 10 On Your Side reported boxes of medical records were left outside the former home of Erica Steele, who runs a wellness center in Virginia Beach. Portsmouth Police picked up the documents and have assigned a detective to the case to investigate any possible state privacy law violations.
When WAVY.com spoke with Steele last week, she admitted the boxes being put outside was a major mistake and blamed a cleaning crew she said she hired. We caught up with that cleaning company on Monday, and the owner had a much different story.
“I was told that the boxes were placed on the side previously, and when they entered the building they were already there,” said Joy Colden-Hepbourn. “Any item where we are unaware of what it is, especially if it’s non-disclosure things — social security numbers, addresses — we don’t keep items like that. We don’t even want to touch those items.”
A neighbor also told 10 On Your Side she saw Steele put the documents on the curb. We asked Steele about that directly this afternoon, but she would not answer our questions. Instead, she released the following statement:
We appreciate you holding our feet to the fire on this and will work tremendously harder to restore any trust we have lost. We love Hampton Roads and are happy to move forward here.
I have always taken great pride in Essential Wellness as well as the care for our clients. Any wrong doing, complaint, or imperfection has always been taken personally and falls squarely on my shoulders. The situation seen on WAVY 10 is no exception to that.
I will continue to apologize while we improve to prevent anything like this from happening again. It truly was an oversight on my part.
While ensuring the quality of service for all of our clients is a top priority of Essential Wellness and a personal priority of mine, we will be doubling our efforts to process all medical forms into our EHR followed by a shredding process. In fact, most of the boxes seen on the news were empty medical file folders left over from previous shreds, however some of the boxes apparently still had medical forms in them. We had not yet had the chance to go through each box. These are from prior to 2012, not any current patients of the center.
Essential Wellness is proud to be a part of Hampton Road’s small business community. Our staff of three is small in number but could not be bigger on our commitment to the highest of standards.
We share WAVY 10 On Your Side’s commitment in better customer service and we look forward to continuing our efforts to serve Hampton Roads as a leader in naturalistic care. Naturopathic Medicine is not recognized in the state of Virginia and does not involve “crystal or chakra healing” but actual science and education, in which I have completed 10 years worth of training in my field. I am truly saddened by this situation and hope that we can all move forward from this unfortunate situation.
Erica A. Steele, Owner