Hospital says it did not reveal missing man checked in due to HI -

Hospital says it did not reveal missing man checked in due to HIPPA laws

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A Festus hospital said federal privacy laws forced it not to reveal that a missing man police were searching for was actually inside the hospital.

Pevely police launched a massive search to find Bryan Howdershell, who went for a walk on Tuesday evening and never returned.

“He had some health problems and did not take his medication, and the reporting party was concerned for his safety,” said Captain Kevin Sullivan with Pevely police.

Authorities posted a missing flyer on social media, brought in four canine unit search teams, and conducted a lengthy search until Howdershell's girlfriend called Thursday morning and said Howdershell checked himself into Mercy Hospital Jefferson in Festus.

Police said they asked Mercy if Howdershell was at their hospital.

“They told us they did not have anyone by that name at that hospital,” Sullivan said.

Under federal privacy laws, patients can prevent hospitals from revealing they have been admitted except in certain circumstances. Sullivan told News 4 taxpayer money was wasted on the search.

“We can't afford to keep paying that overtime like that. We're a small agency and every little bit counts,” Sullivan said.

Mercy later released a statement on the situation:

Mercy takes patient privacy very seriously and we follow federal rules with respect to providing patient information. We also recognize the importance of collaboration with law enforcement and emergency responders. While in this particular case we believe our actions were appropriate, we will examine our practices to ensure that we provide full cooperation with law enforcement while respecting our patients' privacy rights.

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