DOE, hospital detail records agreement

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By Roger Snodgrass

DOE, hospital detail records agreement

A set of historic medical records stored in a Quonset hut leased by the Los Alamos Medical Center will be retrieved, decontaminated and sorted for permanent disposition under a million dollar agreement that has been signed by LAMC and the Department of Energy.

“The hospital has entered into a cooperative agreement with the DOE Office of Health, Safety and Security in conjunction with the Los Alamos Site Office of the National Nuclear Security regarding the old medical records,” said Sandra Podley, chief executive officer of the medical center.

“Right now we are working on finalizing contracts with the primary subcontractor on the project and will be working on the final project plan and scheduling for the project over the next few weeks”

“We are really looking forward to getting started with the project,” she added.

An announcement on Friday by the site office clarified and expanded on earlier reports about the agreement.

The collection is thought to include records from the beginning of the laboratory through the mid-60s. The hospital became privatized in January 1964, and DOE will take custody of the records prior to that point. LAMC will assume responsibility for preserving the post-1964 records.

According to the announcement, the records will be available for former employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory. Employees who rely on medical information in the records to verify aspects of their personal medical histories will find the records available to them for applying for assistance under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act of 2000.

EEOICPA is a program that provides a one-time lump sum payments of $150,000 and continuing medical benefits to workers exposed to beryllium, radiation and other harmful substances while working in the for Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons complex. 

 “Until now, many former workers seeking federal compensation have had a very hard time proving they were medically eligible,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who helped write EEOICPA into law.

Bingaman announced the agreement early this week.

“DOE’s move to take possession of these documents will finally allow these former employees to piece together the information required of them,” he added. “I’m very glad DOE is taking this action.”

In a joint announcement with Bingaman, Sen.-elect Tom Udall recalled his efforts to bring the problem to the attention of DOE in March 2006 to help sick EEOICPA claimants and their beneficiaries qualify for compensation.

"While I am pleased that DOE has entered into an agreement to retrieve the records, it’s unfortunate that it’s taken the agency nearly three years to do so,” said Udall. “I will continue to advocate on behalf of these Cold War heroes to ensure that they have access to their own medical information, especially if it will help them receive the federal compensation to which they are entitled."

In their announcement, the hospital and the local site office described the process they will follow.

The records will first need to be moved and sorted before any information is available and that is expected to take some time in order to follow needed health, safety and security precautions.

Aside from special procedures for possible hantavirus contamination and mold, radiation sampling has also been suggested by the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health.

Because security guidelines have changed over time, some records, which may formerly have been considered Official Use Only may now be considered classified, the site office explained.

LAMC and its contractor will be responsible for the decontamination, sorting, and return of the records to DOE or to their appropriate owners. All the records will be preserved, according to the parties to the agreement, and there are no plans by DOE or LAMC to destroy any of the records.

The records may be retrieved by contacting the hospital and completing the appropriate forms for medical records requests.