December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Resident finds computer with medical information for 15,000 patients

Carl Forrider found a computer he says contains medical information for 15,000 patients. It was left behind when a doctor moved offices. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Carl Forrider found a computer he says contains medical information for 15,000 patients. It was left behind when a doctor moved offices. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — Would you want a complete stranger to know when you went to the doctor, what pain or ailment you wanted him to fix and what he decided should be your course of action?

How about the medical test you took toward finding a diagnosis and what illness or diseases you may now have?

What about all of that information along with your name, home address, Social Security number and your medical insurance information and the same information for your children, too?

Jennifer Goldauskas of Wakeman said allowing that all information to be released is scary given the real threat of identity theft nowadays.

Luckily, she was the person to end up with a discarded computer that contained her medical information and that of thousands of others.

“I couldn’t believe it. So much information was just right there at my fingertips,” Goldauskas said. “All I could think is this computer is safe with me because I won’t do anything with someone’s personal information, but what if it had not been me who got this computer?”

A family doctor who spent 15 years at an office on Cleveland Street recently moved to a new location, but left behind a computer containing the personal information of thousands of patients in the process.

Social Security numbers, names, addresses, copies of medical insurance cards and detailed information from office visits were all saved and easily accessible in a computer tower once owned by Dr. Chuka Onyeneke. It, along with several other items Onyeneke left at 160 Cleveland St., was headed for the trash, but the computer instead ended up at Golauskas’ home.

With the recent data breach that exposed the information of perhaps as many as 70 million Target customers and the retail giant working to determine how many customers had their information compromised, identity theft is high on the minds of many.

However, Onyeneke downplayed the abandoned computer.

The icon on a computer that Carl Forrider found offers access to medical information for 15,000 patients.

The icon on a computer that Carl Forrider found offers access to medical information for 15,000 patients.

“My patients are safe with me, and the information they give me is safe with me,” he said.

Goldauskas, 35, said she got the computer after her fiance, Carl Forrider, was asked to help clean out the office for a new tenant.

Forrider said he was told by the property owner everything left in the space was headed for the garbage, but he could salvage anything he wanted. The older-model computer with a monitor caught his attention. His teenage son needed one to play computer games, so it went home with him.

“I turned it on, and just being funny said, ‘Let’s see if anything is on this thing,’ ” Forrider said. “I was thinking the hard drive was wiped clean.”

The shocking realization came when he easily was able to find images of scanned insurance cards and medical documents with Onyeneke’s name listed as the physician of record. Files with date stamps between January 1996 and December 2012 were on the computer and a full-screen slideshow allowed Forrider and Goldauskas to quickly flip through hundreds of images.

Onyeneke said Thursday he was almost certain he took all patient information and computers with him when he went to the new location. His office is now on North Abbe Road.

“If one was left behind, it was done by accident and I would work to get the computer back,” he said. “No one cares more than I do about my patient’s information.”

Onyeneke was adamant the computer and its programs were password protected. But an icon on the desktop — The Chronicle-Telegram verified the ease of accessing the data Friday when Forrider and Goldauskas brought the computer to The Chronicle office — gave the user a shortcut list of employee user names and passwords to further access data on the computer.

Several of the files were diagnostic reports and test results for patients who had tests conducted at EMH Healthcare facilities. The medical center is now known as University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center after a merger that went into effect earlier this year.

A Care Source identification card with a patients name, addres and social security number is displayed on a monitor.

A Care Source identification card with a patients name, addres and social security number is displayed on a monitor.

Hospital spokeswoman Kristen Davis-Kutina said Onyeneke was never employed as a doctor at EMH and his privileges to practice at EMH facilities ended in July 2011 when Amherst Hospital stopped accepting patients.

Davis-Kutina said the hospital staff learned about the abandoned computer when contacted by a reporter and are investigating the matter on their end.

“This is the first time we have heard of this,” she said.

On Friday afternoon, Goldauskas’ outrage over what she called a disregard for hundreds of identities turned to utter disgust when she happened upon a familiar name on the computer — her own.

“I went to see him a lot like seven or eight years ago, but I didn’t think to look for my name,” she said. “He is just this nice doctor known for getting you in and out with the meds you need. But look — my Social Security number, my name — everything — is just right there.”

As a Chronicle reporter read Goldauskas’ detailed files, including specific reasons why she went to see Onyeneke on certain dates, she quickly turned her head.

“Stop. It’s like you’re going through my purse,” she said.

When asked why she didn’t just track Onyneke down and return the computer, Goldauskas said doing so would not help everyone whose files were on the computer.

“Then no one would know. People wouldn’t know their stuff was out there and how careless people can be,” she said. “If I knew this was the only computer, I would have gotten rid of it. But the what if is what is scary.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.