Central Health CEO Karen McGrath spoke publicly March 7 about patient privacy breaches. ((CBC))

A Central Health employee has been fired for breaching patient confidentiality.

The health authority that oversees central Newfoundland said Monday it believes the files of 19 patients were accessed inappropriately over a two-and-a-half year period.

"When people come into our care they have a right to privacy," said Central Health CEO Karen McGrath in news release.

"While we are very disappointed that this privacy breach has occurred, we think it is important for the public to know that we take it very seriously and we are dealing with it appropriately."

She said officials are contacting patients whose information was wrongly accessed.

McGrath said the authority is speaking publicly about the breach because it is so egregious.

"While Central Health does not normally discuss information pertaining to particular employees, we feel the seriousness of this privacy breach requires us to tell the public that this employee has been terminated," said McGrath.

"If we are going to be successful in protecting the private and confidential information of our client, we must enforce our policies."