Kingston, NY (September 3, 2020)- HealthAlliance Hospital Broadway Campus—better known as Kingston Hospital—was sued today in Supreme Court, Ulster County for allegedly stonewalling a recent widow’s attempts to investigate the death of her late husband, including a possible medical malpractice claim against the hospital, by demanding she pay a fee for her husband’s medical records beyond what is required by federal law.

According to the lawsuit, Sherry Russell, of Woodstock, NY, lost her husband, Charles, on October 28, 2019, to lung cancer. Soon after his death, Ms. Russell retained a law firm in a potential lawsuit regarding the alleged delay in the diagnosis and treatment of her husband’s cancer. Specifically, Ms. Russell believes Kingston Hospital should have diagnosed her husband’s cancer a year earlier when a chest x-ray revealed a mass on his lung. Ms. Russell believes that Kingston Hospital neglected to tell her husband about the mass on his lung, denying him the opportunity for the surgical removal of the tumor that could have saved his life.

In connection with her and her law firm’s investigation, in April, 2020, Ms. Russell ordered her husband’s medical records from Kingston Hospital. Under New York State law, the hospital had ten days to comply with her request. Under federal law, the Kingston Hospital had thirty days. But, according to the complaint, five months later, the Kingston Hospital has not complied with Ms. Russell’s request for her husband’s records.

Even worse, Ms. Russell alleges that even though federal law requires her to pay no more than $6.50 to Kingston Hospital for the electronic version of her husband’s medical records—no matter how many pages in total the records consist of—Kingston Hospital has directed Ms. Russell to contact a third-party medical records company, Ciox Health, that insists that Ms. Russell pay photocopying fees for the electronic medical records she is requesting.

“Kingston Hospital’s treatment of Ms. Russell here is both shocking and, as we contend, illegal.”, said John H. Fisher of The New York Injury & Malpractice Law Firm, P.C., and the attorney for Ms. Russell. “Instead of simply following the law and directly providing Ms. Russell her husband’s records for the price of about a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread, Kingston Hospital wants Ms. Russell to pay possibly thousands of dollars in fees to a third-party medical records company.”

In her lawsuit, Ms. Russell alleges that by forcing patients, their families and heirs to purchase their medical records from the hospital through a third party, Kingston Hospital is violating a federal law known as the HITECH Act of 2009. Under the HITECH Act, healthcare providers can only charge patients for the reasonable cost of providing their requested medical records in electronic format at the “Patient Rate” of $6.50.

“I’m standing up for basic rights that were violated by Kingston Hospital”, said Ms. Russell. “I have no other choice. I want to make sure this doesn’t continue happening to other
patients and their families.”

The company Kingston Hospital has directed Ms. Russell to pay for her husband’s medical records, Ciox Health, has previously been sued over the fees it charges for medical records. An August 2019 class action lawsuit alleged that Ciox systematically overcharges for copies of patients’ medical records. The allegations related to inappropriate charges by Ciox for medical records from July 2011 to August 2019. Ciox agreed to pay $35.4 million to settle the lawsuit.

“We’ve battled hospitals and doctors before over access to medical records, but in over twenty years, we’ve never been forced to file a lawsuit to gain medical records at a ‘reasonable cost’”, said Fisher. “We are standing up for the basic principle that hospitals should not profit from the sale of medical records.”