Capital District Health finds itself in the middle of a family feud. One
that is raising serious questions about the health authority's ability to
protect your private medical files from prying eyes.
Several weeks ago,
when Mary Schinold received a letter from Capital Health informing her that she
was one of 15 Windsor-area patients whose files had been accessed without
authorization, she was obviously concerned. When she received a Facebook message
from her sister-in-law, Katharine Zinck Lawrence, admitting she was the one who
looked at her files, she was livid. Shinold was so angry she called the Halifax
Chronicle-Herald to blow the whistle on Lawrence.
You see, Shinold and
Lawrence have not spoken to each other for more than three years. Another
sister-in-law I spoke with has also severed ties with Lawrence. Neither side
will talk about what precipitated the divide, but it is clearly behind this
health scandal going public.
The scandal grew this week when Capital Health announced its audit revealed
another 105 patient files had been breached by the same employee. They didn't
name her but it was obviously Katharine Zinck Lawrence.
With these latest revelations, Lawrence agreed to meet with reporters to
tell her side of the story. Lawrence, who was a registration clerk with Capital
Health, admitted what she did was wrong, she said her curiosity got the better
of her, and she apologized.
Then she dropped a bombshell.
Lawrence, who resigned after all this came to light, says she believes she
is being singled out for something that is routine practice. She told me, "If
Capital Health was to do a full audit on all employees there, it would be hard
to find a few that had never, at one point or another, never did this."
fact, she says after she left her job, she received a lot of calls of support
from former colleagues who admitted they too had accessed the private files of
friends and family members.
Capital Health disputes this. John Gillis, who speaks for the health
authority, says they have checks and balances in place to keep that from
happening, and they are confident their employees respect the authorities strict
But the facts of what happen raise questions about just how effective the
Mary Schinold says Capital Health showed her documents that revealed
Lawrence repeatedly accessed her medical files over a period of at least six
years. They also indicate Lawrence printed many of them.
Lawrence says she was only caught after she made an off-hand remark to a
nurse about checking her father's record to see if he had a medical appointment.
That nurse reported the conversation to her manager.
When pressed in a second interview, Gillis admitted the health authority
does not do any random audits of the electronic file system. It only
investigates possible breaches of privacy if there is a complaint. But he says
they are bringing in a software security program that will troll the electronic
files looking for possible red flags.
If not for the family dynamics, all of this may very well have been dealt
with quietly and with little coverage in the media. When I met with Mary
Schinold I asked her if she would have handled this differently if she and
Lawrence were not estranged. "If she would have come to us, sat us down as a
family, and said 'my God I did this - I'm so humbly sorry', things could have
been different, it could have stopped it", said Schinold.
But that didn't happen and now Schinold wants both Lawrence and Capital
Health to pay for what happened. She wants criminal charges laid against
Lawrence, and Schinold and several others are planning a class action lawsuit
against Capital Health.