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Dispute over hospital laptop puts patient privacy at risk - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Dispute over hospital laptop puts patient privacy at risk

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Christian Cornelius Christian Cornelius
NEWPORT, Vt. -

A privacy breach at North Country Hospital. A former employee says he was given a laptop to fix that contained sensitive patient information. He says he tried to alert the hospital, but now he's being charged with larceny.

"I feel betrayed," Christian Cornelius said.

Cornelius says he tried to do the right thing when a laptop ended up in his possession from North Country Hospital with more than 3,000 patient documents on it.

"I feel as though I tried to do the right thing and an $82 million corporation is trying to make me out as something I'm not on purpose because they're guilty," Cornelius said.

Cornelius worked in the IT department at the hospital and says a fellow employee took a discarded computer and asked him to install a fan and hard drive.

"It's lying around, there's a pile with discarded laptops, you grab the one with the least scratches on it," he said.

Cornelius says when he finally booted it up, there was more than he bargained for.

"It sat on my workbench for seven months," he said. "I finally turned it on in September and found it was loaded with medical records and had the hard drive still in it."

Cornelius says he immediately contacted the hospital, but his calls were ignored.

Hospital officials declined an on-camera interview with WCAX News, but issued a public statement. North Country did take out an ad in the Newport Daily Express saying it was deeply disturbed by the situation and apologetic. Hospital officials say they are trying to get the computer back and, "At this time, we do not have reason to believe that the former employee has used or disclosed any health information other than to make demands for monetary compensation upon the Hospital."

Cornelius was fired from the hospital in July. He says he wasn't given a reason why. The laptop discovery happened in September. The hospital says the information is password protected, but believes he has access because of his prior position.

Reporter Gina Bullard: Where is the laptop now?

Christian Cornelius: I'd rather not say.

Cornelius says he has no intention of using the medical records for any other purpose than getting it to proper authorities.

North Country Hospital has reported the incident to federal state and local enforcement agencies in an effort to get the laptop back.

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