PHOENIX — The closure of two Arizona hospitals last summer left hundreds of former patients unable to get their medical records, but a judge's order for temporary reactivation of the closed hospitals' record systems could be the answer.
Creditors for Florence Hospital at Anthem and Gilbert Hospital bickered for months over who should cover the cost of accessing the repossessed electronics-records system.
An appeal is possible, but a Maricopa County Superior Court judge last Wednesday approved a plan to take $92,000 from the hospitals' assets to pay for reactivating the records.
The former patients include Caitlin Secrist, a 21-year-old college student from the Pinal County city of Florence whose records would clear the way for her to get critically needed surgery.
The Arizona Republic reports that a surgeon needs to review records of Secrist's initial treatment at Florence Hospital at Anthem records so he can review her entire health history to verify she suffers from acute pancreatitis before he removes her pancreas, spleen and appendix.
In the meantime, Secrist cannot eat, work or attend college and is constant pain. She wears a feeding tube and depends on multiple medications, and she hopes the planned surgery will help.
Judge Roger Brodman said during the hearing that everyone agrees that access to the records is a critical issue but that there is effectively no hospital in existence to produce the record.
Brodman ruled that the most efficient, fastest and probably least expensive option was to use remaining hospital assets to reactivate the electronic-records system for 90 days, publicize the reactivation to help notify patients and to hire people to collect the records and respond to requests.
The window of opportunity to receive records is expected to be roughly March through May.
Indigo-DLI Holdings, the New York lender that opposed the plan because it would eat into the money it would recoup from the hospitals, may appeal to stop the plan, attorney Kyle Hirsch said in court.
"This is a very important issue," Hirsch told Brodman. "If the patients want their records they should pay a reasonable fee . But imposing the entire expense on Indigo doesn't seem fair."
For now the plan will move forward and attorneys said Secrist can expect to receive her file in two to three weeks if all goes well, Secrist and her parents said the decision was a "big win" for her and hundreds of other patients.
"It's a good feeling," Secrist said outside the courthouse. "I can finally get those records and get on my way to getting better."