Ex-MedicAlert employee had record

Andrea Terry, a former MedicAlert employee who was arrested last week on suspicion of sending 10,000 patient records to her personal e-mail account, has prior criminal convictions and a history of taking narcotic drugs from hospitals where she previously worked, court records show.

Terry, 43, had gone from being a nurse who ducked into hospital restrooms to inject herself with morphine to six years of stable employment with MedicAlert before she was arrested Aug. 22 at her Oakdale home, records show. Her work history raises questions about the ability of health care organizations to obtain information about the people they hire.

Terry, who was booked in jail on a felony charge of unauthorized access to a computer system or network, posted bail and is awaiting a court date.

Authorities are still seeking a forensic analysis of her computer and Yahoo account to find out whether confidential patient information moved beyond her e-mail account or whether other people had access to it. Turlock police and the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force are handling the investigation.

Reached by telephone Friday, Terry said patient confidentially was never jeopardized, but she refused to comment further. "I'd love to tell you the ins-and-outs of what happened, but I'm in a position where I really shouldn't say anything until I have an attorney," she said. "I'm still in the process of choosing an attorney."

Terry was the call center manager for MedicAlert, a medical information service for members who wear bracelets or pendants bearing their chronic health conditions. Emergency personnel can get patient histories by calling the 24-hour hot line.

MedicAlert dismissed her on May 8 and she was hired back as a consultant May 29. She was given notice Aug. 15 that her contract would not be renewed.

The registered nurse has prior criminal convictions and lost her jobs with three previous hospital employers for diverting narcotic medications from patients for her personal use, records show. She was then known by her maiden name, Andrea Boyles, and her troubles are detailed in court documents and a state Board of Registered Nursing investigation conducted when she worked for Doctors Medical Center of Modesto in 1999.

Despite her work history and legal troubles, Terry was able to get a job with MedicAlert in August 2001.

Paul Kortschak, chief executive officer of MedicAlert, gave the same response as another former employer when asked about Terry on Friday. He said all employees undergo a background check and Terry never raised any flags.

"We had no indication in the past that there was any grievance or concern or any reason to re-examine her," he said.

Terry was hired when the foundation was managed by a previous CEO. MedicAlert was embroiled in controversy two years ago when its former chief financial officer and her husband were convicted of embezzlement. The foundation's former chief executive officer, Tanya Glazebrook, initially was implicated, but charges were dropped.