Patient records may have been compromised after nursing home abruptly shut down in Sandy

Posted at 9:18 PM, Jun 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-04 23:18:53-04

SANDY, Utah -- A nursing home in Sandy was abruptly shut down last month when the owners ran out of money, and now, neighbors contend the former Deseret Health and Rehabilitation has been left open and abandoned, with sensitive patient information unsecure.

“One of those more complicated calls that we respond on,” said Sgt. Dean Carriger of the Sandy Police Department.

Tuesday, Carriger and other officers were called to the center after a resident noticed someone carrying items out of the building. According to Carriger, they encountered three people at the property, who claimed to have been given permission to be there from an ex-employee.

“We’re not sure of the exact status at this point,” said Carriger. “We are working on that to determine if these individuals were simply here working for Deseret Care to remove property, or if they had ill will.”

The incident was one of several that has raised concern among homeowners who live next door to the center, according to resident Don Cann.

“The owner of Deseret Health and Rehab obviously abandoned the property, with no regard for the facility whatsoever,” Cann said. “And having left it unsecured, open, subject to all types of riffraff coming in, we as neighbors have been very concerned about it.”

When FOX 13 News visited the property Wednesday, our cameras captured a mess inside the building--with boxes, files and trash left all over the floors. Outside, a small pile of patient records sat unattended on the sidewalk. The files showed two patients’ names and their evaluations by physicians of the facility.

“It’s concerning, definitely," said Tom Hudachko, spokesman for the Utah Department of Health.

The department learned of issues at the property earlier this week and has been in touch with the company.

The building is owned by Ventas, a Chicago-based company. However, it was leased to the Deseret Health Group, which ran three facilities in Utah, as well as others around the country. Two of its Utah sites in Sandy and Millcreek have closed. Its space in Ogden was taken over by another company.

FOX 13 News tried to reach the company's CEO, who lives in Utah. Garett Robertson was nowhere to be found at his sprawling home in Farmington, which had a for sale sign on the lawn. The company headquarters in Bountiful were closed Wednesday. A sign on the building stated it was open for leasing.

According to Hudachko, however, Robertson has been cooperating with them.

“There is an administrative rule that requires these facilities when they close down to create a provision for the safe and secure keeping of those medical records," Hudachko explained, "And they’ve got to keep them for seven years after each one of their clients is discharged.”

While failure to store medical records properly violates state requirements, there is little the health department could do to Deseret Health. The agency can only take action over a business license, which would not be possible in this case since the centers are out of business.

“We’re very concerned as neighbors about our neighborhood," Cann said.

Ventas did not return FOX 13 News' calls for comment about plans for the property. According to Hudachko, Deseret Health has hired security to monitor the property going forward.