Kaiser Permanente, California's largest healthcare provider, has reached a $49 million settlement with state prosecutors following allegations of illegal disposing of patient records, hazardous materials, and medical waste, including blood and body parts.
The settlement was announced by Attorney General Rob Bonta on Friday in a statement.
The settlement follows years of state investigation into Kaiser Permanente's waste disposal practices. Beginning in 2015, undercover state trash inspectors rifled through its hospitals' municipal dumpsters and found pharmaceutical drugs, syringes and vials containing bio-hazardous human blood and bodily fluids, and hazardous materials (batteries, aerosols, cleansers, sanitizers, electronic waste), at 16 different facilities, as the Mercury News reported. That’s a violation of the state’s Hazardous Waste Control Law and Medical Waste Management Act, which mandates these types of materials be collected into marked containers and disposed at licensed facilities.
Plus, the inspectors reportedly found over 10,000 paper records containing the medical information of more than 7,700 patients during these inspections — flouting laws that require customer and medical records be disposed of in a way that protects privacy like shredding or burning.
And as KTVU reported, state inspectors also said that they found “surgical body parts,” though it’s not clear which ones. Kaiser has reportedly denied that claim,
“As a health care provider, Kaiser should know that it has specific legal obligations to properly dispose of medical waste and safeguard patients’ medical information,” AG Bonta said in the press release. He also added that Kaiser agreed to the settlement and took immediate action to address the alleged violations.
According to Bonta, as part of the settlement, Kaiser Permanente will be required to retain an independent third-party auditor, approved by the Attorney General's Office and the district attorneys involved, for a period of five years. This auditor will apparently assess Kaiser's compliance with California laws related to the handling of hazardous and medical waste, as well as patient health information protection.
Kaiser, headquartered in Oakland, operates over 700 facilities statewide and provides healthcare to approximately 8.8 million Californians. Hope that their health insurance costs won’t go up to cover the payout.
Photo of Kaiser Permanente Vallejo Medical Center by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.