Biohazards, medical records languish in abandoned Detroit nursing home

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New Detroit Nursing Center_0122Biohazards and thousands of confidential medical records have languished for five years inside a former nursing home on Detroit’s east side – and the doors are wide open to trespass.

A Motor City Muckraker investigation has revealed that the New Detroit Nursing Center on East Grand Boulevard violated state and federal laws in 2009 by closing the building and leaving behind bloody syringes, prescription pills, medical supplies and thousands of confidential medical records stacked from the floor to the ceiling.

The files contain sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, in-depth medical histories, addresses and phone numbers, leaving former patients and employees vulnerable to identity fraud.  

New Detroit Nursing Center_0071The nursing home, which was run by the now-defunct Grosse Pointe Park company, El-Dan, committed several major violations in 2009, prompting the state to ban new admissions at the 50-bed home, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. Soon after, the company abandoned the adjoined buildings.

Today, the buildings are easily accessible and infested with mold. Patient and employee records are rotting in closets and cabinets. Biohazards, medical supplies and beds are strewn across filthy floors.

In June, we revealed that tens of thousands of confidential records containing social security numbers, financial information and medical histories of children and adults have been left behind in abandoned schools, police stations, nursing homes, churches and hospitals in metro Detroit.

New Detroit Nursing Center_0099State law requires medical records to be preserved for at least seven years because they are critical to maintaining an accurate medical history and ensuring prompt treatment. After seven years, the records can be destroyed if they are properly “shredded, incinerated, electronically deleted, or otherwise disposed of in a manner that ensures continued confidentiality of the patient’s health care information.” 

The Grosse Pointe family that operated El-Dan, Daniel and Eleanor James, sold the property to the nearby Trinity Deliverance Church in 2010 for $200,000, according to Wayne County property taxes.

Eleanor James died in 2010, and her husband couldn’t be reached for comment.

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The church, which owes more than $30,000 in delinquent taxes for the property, planned to transform the buildings into a homeless shelter and job-training center, Pastor Diane Washington told me Monday.

But thieves scavenged the buildings for metal, causing extensive damage.

“After they got vandalized, we couldn’t afford to do anything with the buildings,” Washington said.

We notified Mayor Mike Duggan’s office of the buildings, and a spokesman said the city would investigate. 

The abandonment of medical records and social security records violate numerous laws, including HIPAA, the Medical Waste Regulatory Act and the Michigan Identity Theft Protection Act.

Washington said she hopes the church can secure funding to save the buildings on the once-prosperous boulevard.

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Tom

    It would have been simple for the buyer only to take possession when the seller cleared the property. I’m certain the James’s would have followed through. Older couple probably have more money than they would ever spend but still not enough. The people from the church should be in front of his house.

  • Pay_It_Forward

    Wow, no words other than they best get the records out of there as thieves will have a field day with identity theft. And drug dealers same deal, they will go after the pills…old or not. Superb work on this on my friend.

  • MichaelDallen

    Incredible. Saw this happen at the hospital and geriatric center on W. Seven Mile near Southfield – in fact, it made up part of a photo essay in Time Magazine. Like the Andrea Doria, it looked like all the people suddenly just scurried away from the place, with coffee poured and breakfast on the way… Naturally, scavengers came, eventually… My question is, why do these supposedly responsible and otherwise successful companies leave these places like this?

    • muckraker_steve

      The owner also received $200,000 for the building, so he had the money to properly remove the records and medical waste.

      • Gary

        Anything further come of this issue?

        • muckraker_steve

          Thanks for asking. The state and city responded quickly, saying the building would be locked up and the biohazards and records removed. But I haven’t had an opportunity to go there and confirm that anything happened. I will soon.