December 2, 2023

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Student Might Die Over Computer Server Repossession – Lost Records

PHOENIX – Caitlin Secrist can’t eat, can’t work, can barely go to school online and is in constant pain from a severe illness. Now, the 21-year-old college student could die because she can’t get copies of her own medical records.

The files are locked away in a repossessed electronic-records system while creditors of bankrupt Florence Hospital at Anthem and Gilbert Hospital bicker over who should pay for access to them.

More than 300 patients have requested medical records without success since the hospitals shut down in June 2018, court records showed. Secrist’s family has asked for hers repeatedly.

Former patients need the documents to deal with chronic conditions or pursue medical malpractice lawsuits. Prospective employers of nearly 200 doctors and hospital staffers looking for new work have been unable to check their employment histories.

But Secrist’s case might be the most urgent.

he medical records are the only thing standing between her and a life-saving surgery by a top physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The doctor has refused to perform the operation without a complete understanding of her health history, she said.

Every week that goes by, the danger increases of another attack of acute pancreatitis that could cause her organs to shut down.

“Without those records, we can’t go forward. We can’t make me better,” said Secrist, who lives with her parents in Florence, Arizona. “Having my life, practically, in the hands of a judge and people I don’t even know, who don’t even know my situation, it’s upsetting.”

Secrist and her primary care physician sent letters this week to Maricopa County Superior Court urging swift release of her records. Federal and state laws require medical facilities to send patients copies of their medical records within 60 days of a request.

“It’s really hard to watch your daughter go through (pain), knowing there is a surgery that can fix this and we can’t (do it) because we’re missing stupid medical records,” said her mother, Suzette Secrist. “There’s just one thing holding us back.”

A knot of attorneys with competing interests have tied up the case for nearly nine months, arguing over who bears financial responsibility for maintaining former patient files.

Even Judge Roger Brodman admitted shutting down the hospitals has been more complicated than he anticipated.

“A major problem has been the issue of patient records,” he wrote in December. “Everyone acknowledges that, as a matter of law and public policy, the patient records need to be preserved. … At multiple hearings, the Court has repeatedly sought proposals to resolve the document retention/patient record problem. … If the Court errs, it will do so in the public’s interest.”

‘I thought I was going to die’

The first time Caitlin Secrist had an attack of pancreatitis in 2017, the stabbing pain in her stomach was so intense she crawled to her mother on her hands and knees.

“It hit me like a truck,” Secrist said. “I thought I was going to die, it was so bad.”

Suzette and Bill Secrist rushed their daughter to the nearest emergency room at Florence Hospital.

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