'Overwhelmed' Burlingame hospital clerk brings 1,500 patient files home

Examiner file photo

An apparently overworked ex-mailroom clerk at a Burlingame hospital who claimed she took hundreds of patient documents home because she was falling behind pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor theft charges Monday.

Katherine Asimos, 49, of Millbrae had worked in the mailroom at Mills-Peninsula Health Services since 2001. She was fired after hospital administrators learned in June that she brought home up to 1,500 patient documents containing sensitive information such as names and test results. The documents were taken between November 2009 and September 2010.

Asimos’ brother spotted the documents while helping his sister move and returned them to the hospital, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Tuesday.

The hospital reported the incident to the Burlingame Police Department.

Asimos claimed she took the documents because she was behind in her sorting duties, Wagstaffe said.

According to the hospital, the majority of the reports contained patient names and diagnostic test results, with only 15 containing patient addresses and insurance ID and Social Security numbers.

Asimos was tasked with providing copies of the reports to her doctors. She told the hospital she intended to send them to the doctors when she had more time.

In an interview with Burlingame police, Asimos claimed she shredded some of the documents and had never intended to use them for personal gain, such as identity theft.

The documents were reportedly sitting in a box at her home.

“The employee stated that she did not read any of the reports or show them to anyone else,” the hospital said in a statement.

Mills-Peninsula said it notified the approximately 1,500 patients about the incident. While there was “no reason to believe” misuse occurred, the hospital offered one year’s credit monitoring and identity protection services at no expense to affected patients.

This isn’t the only charge Asimos is facing. In a separate case from November 2010, she faces five misdemeanor charges for allegedly writing checks on her elderly father’s account without his permission, Wagstaffe said.

Asimos is out of custody on her own recognizance. The cases were set for jury trial Feb. 21, with a pretrial conference Feb. 1.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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