Caitlin Secrist could have died thanks to an inability to access her own medical records, but Arizona's governor and a judge intervened in the case Wednesday. Secrist, 21, was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis in 2017. The condition could kill her, and nothing her doctors have tried—including multiple surgeries—has helped. Her gastroenterologist recommended a surgery that would remove her pancreas, spleen, and appendix, but her surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital won't do something so drastic without a complete understanding of her health history, including looking at the first scans of her organs. After Florence Hospital at Anthem and Gilbert Hospital went bankrupt and closed last summer, however, more than 300 patients have tried in vain to get copies of their medical records. Secrist was one of them.
The Arizona Republic ran an extensive article on her case Wednesday, explaining the ins and outs of the bankruptcy and the fight between various creditors over who was responsible for the $92,000 it would cost to access the repossessed electronic records system. Then two things happened: Gov. Doug Ducey read the article and directed his staff to look into a way to help Secrist get her records, and Secrist—who, along with her doctor, wrote letters to a judge pleading her case in advance of the article's publication—attended a court hearing on the matter. The judge quickly ruled that remaining hospital assets should be used to reactivate the records system for 90 days. In its follow-up article, the Republic has instructions for patients who need their records; lawyers say Secrist will likely get hers within three weeks. (Read the Republic's investigation here and here.)