Fox 59 takes action so patients can access locked medical records

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Citizen’s Health Center near 16th and College in Indianapolis closed abruptly, with no warning to patients.

Some clients, like Tanesha Rutz, are desperate to get their children’s shot records so they can attend school.

“The (new) doctor’s office told me we’d have to start their shots all over again because we weren’t able to locate their records,” said Rutz.

Rutz said her children’s files are locked up inside Citizen’s Health Center on the near north side, and have been since it shut down May 31.

“(I) left messages, numerous messages on a way to retrieve my children’s shot records. But nobody returns a phone call at all,” Rutz said.

We tried calling too, but just got a generic recording. Outside Citizen’s Health Center, there’s also a phone number listed on the door referring patients to another office.

However, Rutz said the person who answered the phone when she called last month had no clue what she was talking about. That’s when she called Fox 59.

“Just concerned about my children’s health records, who is being able to access them, if anyone because I definitely can’t access them,” Rutz said.

Some clients went to People’s Health Center because they needed to see a doctor, but according to People’s Health Center employee Marzetta Patterson, they’ve had the same problem as Rutz.

“We are unable to get records to provide care to any of those patients,” Patterson said.

Her office has been trying for more than two months, Patterson said.

“I wish they would have at least notified the patients that they’re closing and provide information for them in order to obtain their records in a timely manner,” Patterson said, adding that she’s never seen the ball dropped like this.

“Never. Never. Never. This is a first time for me and I’ve been at it for 30 years,” Patterson said.

So we decided to wait outside the building until someone showed up. We tracked down Citizen’s Health Center secretary, Margie Oakley. She said the process is difficult because Citizen’s is run by board members who are volunteers.

“We’re trying to do the right thing and we’re trying to make sure because we know by law we have to make the records available to them,” Oakley said.

The center had to close because federal funding was taken away, Oakley said.

“We operated on our savings until we just ran out of funds,” Oakley said.

The owner of the building is paying for a security guard now because of a break-in the Sunday after the office closed. Flat screen TV sets and computers were stolen, Oakley said. Client records have always been safe though, inside a locked room since the office closed, she said.

As for why they didn’t notify patients, Oakley said it happened abruptly, as they were still working on trying to get money.

She did agree on a set schedule to be open for patients to go get their records. Rutz went in right away.

“I just needed to sign a release for the paperwork and then she just printed them out for me, stapled them and sent me on my way,” she said.

“I’m extremely relieved that my children don’t have to start their shots all over. Extremely relieved you guys were able to help me. I’m extremely satisfied,” Rutz said.

If you’re a Citizen’s Health Center patient, you can go there Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 9 and 11:30 a.m. Oakley said they’ll be evicted from the building Sept. 4 and are moving out Sept. 3. She said after that, she’s not sure where the records will be. Oakley has been in touch with state leaders about what to do next.