DETROIT (WWJ) – Henry Ford Health System has contacted over 15,000 patients after their x-rays were stolen.

Security officer Merideth Phillips says the theft went down in May at a warehouse with which the hospital contracts to store old x-rays. She said the thieves — one of them a former warehouse employee — was caught in the act.

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“Someone witnessed what was happening and they realized it wasn’t our normal recovery process,” Phillips said. “And so then when we came to try to stop what was happening, the individuals who had already loaded the actual bins onto the truck had already taken off.”

Phillips said the stolen x-rays were from before 2005 when the system switched to digital. Patients have been warned that, in addition to the images, the x-ray files contained information such as name, birth dates and patient numbers.

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Phillips said the thieves probably wanted the x-rays  for the silver inside, but may have gotten more than they bargained for.

“The actual process to be able to recover the silver out of the film is more expensive than what someone who is trying to get the silver out thinks it is,” Phillps told WWJ Newsradio 950’s Sandra McNeil.

“It’s not that streight forward. The silver is actually embedded in between two films, and there’s some solutions and things that you have to process with that film in order to get the silver recovered,” she said,

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Phillips says x-rays thefts have been on the rise across the country since the price of gold and silver went up several years ago.