The CEO of Yellowknife's Stanton Territorial Hospital is apologizing after a doctor there lost a USB stick containing the names, birth dates and health card numbers for thousands of Stanton Medical Clinic patients earlier this month.

Two weeks ago, a doctor was working on consult letters that contained medical advice for 52 patients. The physician copied the information onto a USB drive and planned to deliver it to someone who would would put it into the health records system.

According to the hospital's top administrator, the physician did not know the drive also contained a database with the names, health card numbers and date of birth of 4,043 patients at the Stanton Medical Centre.

The physician then lost the unencrypted drive and reported it missing on Nov. 13.​

Brenda Fitzgerald, the hospital's CEO, says the drive held information about people who hadn't been to the Stanton Medical Centre in five years and it was in the process of being archived.

Stanton Medical Centre

A doctor at Stanton Territorial Hospital reported losing a USB key earlier this month that contained the names, birth dates and health care numbers for 4,043 Stanton Medical Clinic patients. (CBC)

She says the doctor didn't follow the hospital's policies. Those USB drives are supposed to protected, so not anyone can see the information.

"We took immediate action to make sure everybody was aware of the incident and to be very aware, do not use unencrypted devices," she said.

"I apologize that this happened at Stanton. Because we have and take very seriously our responsibility to protect patient information."

At this point the hospital doesn't believe the information has been made public.

Fitzgerald says the hospital is now auditing its practices and policies.

Fitzgerald says people whose information is on the missing drive will receive a registered letter in the next two weeks.

Elaine Keenan Bengts, the territory's privacy commissioner is investigating and says this may be an opportunity for the hospital to work on how it trains and educates staff about privacy.​