More than 700 patients of the Roseway Hospital in Shelburne are receiving letters of apology after a privacy breach.

A hospital employee — who has since been fired — inappropriately accessed the medical information of 707 patients through a work computer, said Fraser Mooney, a spokesman for South West Health.

Mooney said the problem came to light when another employee went to a manager with a concern.

"We became aware of some suspicious activity through the normal course of daily business, probably back in mid-April," Mooney told CBC News on Thursday.

"That greatly concerned us so we conducted a thorough and very careful investigation, which included an audit of electronic records."

Mooney said the electronic audit went back about two years. It revealed the same person had viewed 707 individual patient records without authorization or a valid reason.

"Some information could indicate when a patient was registered at the hospital, it could indicate the reason for the visit to the hospital," he said.

"I do understand the person in question didn't have access to detailed medical records or medical charts."

Mooney said South West Health is taking a close look at its processes, privacy policies and confidentiality training to reduce the chance of similar breaches happening in the future.

"It's a very serious breach and even if it's one or two people whose information was accessed inappropriately, that would be too much," he said.

"We're taking it very seriously. We apologize to everyone who's had their information accessed in this way."

Mooney added that South West Health had not contacted the RCMP and did not plan to pursue criminal charges.