Missing Ore. man was in hospital

March 8, 2013 at 8:57 PM   |   Comments

SALEM, Ore., March 8 (UPI) -- Police efforts to find a missing 81-year-old Oregon man were slowed by a privacy law that kept hospital staff from telling officers they were treating him.

Police called Salem Hospital Monday to inquire if Thomas Dill, who has diabetes and had been reported missing by concerned neighbors, had turned up there. But the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which strictly regulates the use and disclosure of patient information, precluded the staff from disclosing he was being treated there, the Salem Statesman Journal reported.

Police finally learned the Salem man was at the hospital Wednesday after being tipped off by an anonymous caller, the newspaper said.

"It's a cumbersome law," Salem police Lt. Steve Birr said. "When I managed the missing persons caseload, one of the difficult things is that we have people with mental illnesses, and they could end up in a mental health facility and you would never know it and they would never tell you."

Salem Hospital spokeswoman Sherryll Hoar told the newspaper the law is "very specific about what we can give to police."

"It's not like we are trying to block anything, but there are certain channels under HIPAA," she said.

Birr said the law can put both the police and the hospital in a tough situation. Police didn't need information about Dill's condition and knowing he was a patient would have saved taxpayer dollars and alleviated the worry for Dill's friends, he said.

Dill has since been transferred to an adult care facility.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Recommended UPI Stories
Featured UPI Collection
2014: The Year in Music [PHOTOS]

2014: The Year in Music [PHOTOS]

Most Popular
China questions Americanism in SATs
Dairy Queen hit by Backoff malware breach
Plague bomb data found on seized Islamic State laptop
St. Paul police arrest a black man for sitting on a bench waiting for his children
Elizabeth Warren defends Israeli airstrikes on schools and hospitals
Trending News