Fire Destroys 90 Percent of UH records
On June 23, fire broke out at TMM Business Records Storage in the Springer Industrial Complex on Broadway Boulevard NE. The fire burned for more than a day, destroying most of the contents of the building. The warehouse, owned by a Texas absentee landlord, was leased by a private contractor under contract with the Health Sciences Center and University Hospital to store records.
The fire smoldered off and on until July 3, when it reignited and burned for another full day. Firefighters had to soak all remaining contents to prevent the fire from sparking again.
"Of the 200 customers, 170 storing records at TMM were UNM Hospitals related," said Randy LaPlante, Belfor Property Restoration, the company on-site to mitigate the damage.
Most of the patient medical records from the HSC created before 2005 – when UNM Hospitals and clinics and the UNM Cancer Center switched to digital electronic record storage – were stored there and were lost. The full extent of the loss is still being determined. All departments are assisting in gathering this information and working with the incident commander to document the loss.
Preliminary reports show that the investigation is focusing on a rooftop air conditioner where the fire may have begun and spread rapidly. Temperatures are believed to have reached more than 2,000 degrees as the fire destroyed everything in its path.
"On the first day, the Albuquerque Fire Department poured between 1,000 and 1,500 gallons of water per minute on the fire," LaPlante said. He said that of 20 bays, 15 have been cleared. The shelves were 16 feet high and less than 2 feet separated shelving units. All shelves were packed with boxes.
"The HSC activated its emergency operations center to determine the scope of the damage, address immediate patient care and staff needs and to complete an inventory of the records lost in the fire," said Catherine Porto, executive director of health information and incident commander.
HSC determined that about 90 percent of its patient medical records created prior to 2005 were destroyed either by the fire or by water damage from firefighting.
In the past five years, HSC began scanning records into a digital format for storage in its electronic medical records system. The majority of patient records in the past five years are retrievable electronically.
LaPlante said UNM put out a bid for a company to grind the destroyed medical records in accordance with the requirements set forth in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability or HIPA Act of 1996.
HSC developed procedures to inform people who request copies of past medical records that the records were destroyed in the fire and give them a document certifying that fact.