5,000 X-rays nabbed from Baltimore hospital

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | November 07, 2011
Thousands of old X-rays were pilfered from a hospital in a Baltimore suburb by a crook posing as a member of a radiological film destruction team, who likely wanted the film for its silver content.

St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Md. said on its website that about 5,000 outdated X-rays, which were scheduled for destruction, were stolen on Sept. 11. The 263-bed hospital found out five days later, after a staff member learned of a similar crime at a nearby hospital. The hospital then reported the theft to the police.

While the paper jackets covering the films, taken during 2004, 2005 and 2007, contain personal information, such as patient's name, date of birth, type of scan and other details, no social security numbers or financial details were compromised.

In any case, the hospital suspects the films were stolen less for what was on them, and more for what they were coated with -- silver. X-ray films are coated in the valuable metal, and film disposal companies will often pay providers to destroy old films so they can reclaim the silver.

"The silver can be easily removed when destroying the film," the hospital said. "Similar incidents in the region and throughout the country have been reported, and St. Joseph Medical Center has no reason to believe that the patient information contained on the paper reports was the target of this theft."

St. Joseph said it is taking steps to beef up security, but it has no way of knowing the names of the patients affected. However, all radiology reports were previously entered into electronic health records.

As of now, the hospital doesn't believe any arrests have been made.

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