In the UK there are generally few worries about who holds the records for patients. This is true even if your doctor passes away. Quite simply the NHS medical records department or some other organisation will hold those records. Accessing them may not be straightforward, but applying for the right to do so is via the Freedom of Information Act.
However there is trouble brewing in the USA after the death of an eye surgeon in the town of Grand Rapids. His death resulted in the closure of the Grand Rapids Eye Institute and Laser Centre, which in turn has caused anguish for his patients who have found their records may not available.
After Dr. Brian Bearie’s death, the practice did continue for a while, but then the telephone line was disconnected, which left many patents in a bit of a flap. Many had booked appointments which have so far not been fulfilled.
One such patient is Maria Valladares. She had laser surgery last January, but is now at a loss (not to mention frustrated) at how her case will be handled in the future. She apparently paid $3000 for treatment which included a life time warranty. The death of Dr. Bearie and the subsequent closure of the practice have now put this warranty at risk. She told local reporters: “I’m fine now. I’m just worried about the future. I want to make sure I’m OK.”
The problem for Ms Valladares is that she had booked a follow up appointment in April, but was never told about the death of Dr. Bearie. She is not only one to be in this situation.
All is not lost however. A former student of Dr. Bearie’s, Mike Keil has seemingly attracted some business as a result of his former teacher’s demise. He said: “It was quite a surprise, quite a shame. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the practice.”
Apparently many of the patient records have been moved to another practice, but this has in itself been something of a nightmare. A spokesperson for this practice said: “We’ve been working really hard at getting patient records over here. The first couple of weeks after (Bearie) died they had a receptionist there answering the phone, but anyone calling now doesn’t get an answer.”
As far as warranties are concerned the local lawyer handling the Bearie estate is advising former patients of Dr. Bearie to get legal advice. He said: “Obviously it was an awfully big setup and operating overhead set up for the practice.
“(Bearie) was a very magnanimous guy, so he was able to make it all work. But it was not something that was easily replicable by another provider.”