A Moncton doctor who accessed 142 patient records without authorization continues to work at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre, Vitalité Health Network officials confirmed on Tuesday.
No other details about the doctor were provided during a news conference about the privacy breach, which was discovered a year ago.
"The investigation is ongoing on the medical side to clarify the situation. Action will be taken, if necessary, as soon as the investigation [is] completed," officials said.
The statement comes one day after CBC News reported that the regional health authority was informing some patients by mail their personal medical records had been accessed without authorization.
A doctor with the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre viewed the records using two computers at the hospital between Sept. 6, 2010 and Nov. 30, 2012, a letter signed by Vitalité CEO Rino Volpé states.
The compromised information could include the reason a patient was referred, the types of tests or examinations the patient underwent, the results, and the diagnosis, according to the three-page letter.
It could also include their medicare number, as well as demographic information, such as name, age, address, and telephone number.
Such information could be valuable to insurance companies or pharmaceutical corporations, a health policy expert has said.
'Not taking this lightly'
New Brunswick's Privacy Commissioner Anne Bertrand says her office has received several complaints from affected patients.
She is investigating and expects to release a full report on the case within a few months. There could be serious consequences, she said.
Bertrand's office was notified by Vitalité about the privacy breach last March — one month after the regional health authority became aware of the situation.
'This incident has put a little black cloud over our facility, unfortunately, but we're dealing with this.' - Beauséjour Zone Chief Operating Officer Richard Losier
"Access abnormalities" were identified during a record access audit conducted last February, according to Beauséjour Zone Chief Operating Officer Richard Losier.
"As soon as we were made aware of the suspected unauthorized access, we immediately undertook an assessment of the situation," Losier said in a statement.
"We're extremely disappointed. We're not taking this lightly at all," he told reporters.
"We're very serious on what's being done. We've spent hundreds of hours dealing with this case over the last year. We've [gone] over thousands of charts."
Patients were advised once the first phase of the investigation — data acquisition — was completed by the network privacy office, said Losier, who is also the executive director of the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre.
"The reason why we took so long [was] to make sure that once we sent the letters out and we have the patients call in inquiring about what may have possibly happened in their specific situation, we're able to tell the patients exactly what happened in their case," said Luc Foulem, regional advisor of media relations for Vitalité.
"To date, no proof or facts have emerged to suggest that the information was shared or used in any other manner," added Losier.
The Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre has a venerable 100-year history in Moncton, but its reputation has taken a hit from this, admitted Losier.
"This incident has put a little black cloud over our facility, unfortunately, but we're dealing with this," he said.
The doctor in question now has limited and supervised access to patient data, officials said.