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Laptop theft may lead to misuse of patient data

LEWISTON -- Personal information may have been released on patients at Mount St. Mary's Hospital from 2001 to 2004, according to President and CEO Angelo G. Calbone.

Two laptops were stolen recently in an armed robbery in the New Jersey office of a national consulting firm that was doing work for Mount St. Mary's. Although there is a suspect in the robbery, the two laptops have not been found.

"This is a pretty routine business practice. We were one of 10 hospitals that had records with this consulting firm. They look at things like managing files, billing and collections. It's a routine thing that went haywire," said Fred Caso, Mount St. Mary's director of community relations.

In the robbery, a man's wallet and two laptops were taken. The laptops are password-protected, and the files on the computer also were password-protected, Caso said.

However, he said, the hospital wants to warn people that personal information, such as date of birth, address and Social Security numbers, was on the laptops.

Calbone is notifying the affected patients of the incident and offering ways to safeguard themselves, such having credit agencies put a fraud alert on their accounts.

The hospital has established a dedicated phone line to answer questions from patients. Calls will be taken from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at 298-2000.


Rath urges creating funds to stabilize local taxes

With the backing of some local leaders, State Sen. Mary Lou Rath, R-Williamsville, encouraged municipalities Thursday to use their share of the sales tax to create tax stabilization funds "to hold the line on, or cut, property taxes."

Erie County agreed to share a portion of the one percent sales tax -- $12.5 million -- with municipalities, and the State Senate and Assembly recently passed legislation approving the distribution.

"Erie County's hardworking property owners are overburdened, and they need relief," Rath said at a news conference in Tonawanda City Hall. "Instead of putting this extra revenue into the general budget, I would encourage local governments to set up tax stabilization funds. The money could then be used for the targeted purpose of preventing a tax increase or, better yet, reducing taxes."

Joing Rath were Tonawanda Mayor Ronald Pilozzi, Tonawanda Town Supervisor Ronald H. Moline and Kenmore Mayor John W. Beaumont, who all support the idea of using the sales tax revenue to stave off tax increases.


Mercy Flight receives $5,000 from project

WEST VALLEY -- The West Valley Demonstration Project donated $5,000 Monday to Mercy Flight Inc.

T.J. Jackson, West Valley's deputy director for the U.S. Department of Energy, said, "Mercy Flight provides an extremely valuable service to the [Demonstration Project] and all our neighbors in the Southern Tier. It is a service we count on and appreciate."

In 1997, the demonstration project and Mercy Flight signed an agreement for air ambulance service to the project site in northern Cattaraugus County.

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