John W. Nolan, the chief HIV statistician for the Palm Beach County, Fla., health department, has been demoted following an investigation into his accidental e-mailing of a confidential list of county HIV patients to more than 800 health department employees, The Palm Beach Post reports. Nolan on February 17 inadvertently sent an e-mail containing the names of 6,500 county HIV patients. He quickly realized his mistake and alerted health department officials, who shut down the e-mail system a few minutes later. An internal investigation showed that only 16 employees had opened the e-mail before the system was shut down and the e-mail deleted.
Florida law requires local health departments to protect the confidentiality of HIV patient information, and a report by the state health department's Office of the Inspector General recommended that Nolan be disciplined for the e-mail snafu. Jean Malecki, county department director, says Nolan will be transferred to a nonsupervisory position, where he will not have access to sensitive information, and that his annual salary of $51,688 will be cut.