Kaiser Foundation Hospitals are paying $49 million in a settlement with the California attorney general and several county district attorneys, including San Joaquin, over allegations of improper disposal of hazardous and medical waste and documents with patient information on them at Kaiser facilities around the state.

Attorney General Rob Bonta and prosecutors from San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, San Joaquin, San Bernardino and Yolo counties on Friday announced the settlement, which stemmed from undercover inspections of unsecured dumpsters at 16 different Kaiser facilities around the state between 2015 and 2017.

“This resolution further protects the health and safety of the residents of San Joaquin County and the state as a whole,” said San Joaquin County District Attorney Ron Freitas in a released statement. “The unlawful disposal of hazardous medical waste has no place in this county, or any county, and the mishandling of confidential patient information will not be tolerated. The settlement with Kaiser places the appropriate safeguards to ensure that this never happens again.”

Inside the dumpsters, which were set for disposal at public landfills, were medical tubing with bodily fluids, batteries and other e-waste, pharmaceuticals, cleansers and paper records for more than 7,700 patients.

Bonta said that Oakland-based Kaiser is the state’s largest health care provider and operates more than 700 facilities around California.

“If they don’t follow the law, if they’re careless with dangerous waste, the potential for harm is widespread,” he said.

The $49 million settlement covers civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and other costs and requires Kaiser to spend money at its facilities to ensure compliance with disposal laws as well as retain a third-party auditor to perform audits at its facilities around the state.

Kaiser in a statement said that after officials at the health care provider learned of the improper disposal practices, “we immediately completed an extensive auditing effort of the waste stream at our facilities and established mandatory and ongoing training to address the findings.”

Kaiser’s statement said, “We take this matter extremely seriously and have taken full responsibility to acknowledge and, in cooperation with the California Attorney General and county district attorneys, correct our performance regarding landfill-bound trash where it may have fallen short of our standards.”

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