March 11, 2015; East Bay Express
Sam Levin of the East Bay Express has been covering the story of the Berkeley Health clinic run by the now-bankrupt Bay Area Consortium for Quality Health Care. NPQ reported on February 20th that when the organization had been ordered by a judge to vacate the premises, the staff had done so but left behind shelf upon shelf of confidential patient files. Late last week, Levin reports, he was informed that state DOJ officials have served a warrant and started a search of the clinic.
Levin asked for and obtained a copy of the search warrant, which states that there is probable cause to believe the property was “used as the means of committing a felony…or that a particular person has committed a felony.” The warrant authorizes seizure of “all records and documents” dated between January 1st, 2011 and January 1, 2014 that relate to the Bay Area Consortium, the Berkeley Health Center, the consortium’s executive director Gwendolyn Rowe-Lee Sykes, and any employees.
In particular, the warrant references financial records, seemingly with a focus on the organization’s billing documents for patients covered by Medi-Cal, the state health insurance program for low-income people. It specifically authorizes the seizure of denied claims for Medi-Cal patients and highlights those involved in the Medi-Cal AIDS Waiver Program.
Peter Hadiaris, the attorney representing the consortium in the bankruptcy case, told Levin that he had no knowledge of the DOJ warrant. And that’s not the only thing Hadiaris—and, apparently, the community—does not know about. Levin writes:
“When I reported on the center leaving medical records behind last month, I noted that the organization had not warned patients or even its own workers about its closure and had failed to update its website or phone message. At least eight patients showed up on the day I visited only to find that the clinic had been evicted. Nearly a month later, it appears that the consortium has still failed to inform patients of its shutdown. As of today, its website still lists the Berkeley Health Clinic address, and a call to the clinic leads to a voicemail that makes no mention of the closure and says patients can leave a message if they have a question about an appointment. Consortium representatives had told me last month that the organization was searching for a new location, but Hadiaris told me today he had no information about that.”
Levin reported that when he visited the clinic last week, there was a sign on the door warning of the DOJ investigation in progress and advising people to stay out. Still, we are left wondering how none of the professionals associated with the clinic managed to figure out how to ensure that their patients’ information was secure and that their cases were well transferred.—Ruth McCambridge