No prosecution for doctor whose patient records ended up in trash
Privacy commissioner had recommended prosecution
Posted: Aug 10, 2012 12:23 PM CST
Last Updated: Aug 10, 2012 7:47 PM CST
The Saskatchewan government will not prosecute a Regina doctor whose patients' medical files ended up in a dumpster.
A year ago, thousands of medical records were left in a recycling bin outside a shopping mall in the south end of Regina.
The privacy commissioner, Gary Dickson, said the case was the worst breach of patient information his office had ever seen.
According to Dickson, the records were in the care of Dr. Teik Im Ooi, from the Albert Park Family Medical Centre.
Cleaners ended up putting the documents in the trash, he said in a report on the case.
Dickson estimated Ooi lost track of at least 2,600 patient files — only a fraction of which were found in the bin.
The government had the matter reviewed by the Justice Department and then by a private law firm to see if charges were warranted under the Health Information Protection Act.
However, both reviews said there is not enough evidence to prosecute the doctor.
Ooi and her staff did not cause the patient files to be placed in the dumpster and didn't know it had happened, the province said.
The government says it's trying to do more to prevent such incidents from happening again.
Despite numerous breaches by health professionals, no one has ever been charged under the Health Information Protection Act since it came into force in 2003.
Saskatchewan's justice minister, Gord Wyant said the Ooi case demonstrates there is a flaw in the law.
"We take this very seriously and we were very offended when we saw those patient records in the Dumpster. So as a result we believe now that there needs to be some attention paid to the legislation so that we can make sure that peoples' health records are properly protected," Wyant said Friday.
"It certainly shows that there is a problem with the legislation that we need to fix," he said.
In his report, released in July 2011, Dickson said that although Ooi was a senior physician, she had never read the Health Information Protection Act and no one in her office seemed to be responsible for looking after medical information once it went into storage. He recommended justice officials consider prosecution.
"I still believe that for egregious breaches of health privacy there needs to be serious consequences," Dickson said Friday.
"The experience in other jurisdictions is that there's powerful deterrent value in a formal prosecution of a trustee who breaches the privacy of a patient. And I continue to feel that compliance in Saskatchewan with [the act] is compromised to the extent there's not been a single prosecution."
Wyant said a working group will be struck to look at issues such as chain of custody or lowering the threshold to ensure there would be grounds for prosecution in the future.
Dickson said he believes this is first time the government has acknowledged that the offence provisions in the act aren't strong enough. He said talk of fixing it is encouraging.With files from The Canadian Press
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