Nfld. & Labrador

'It was unintentional': 19 files lost from travelling orthotic clinic in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Nineteen patients in Happy Valley-Goose Bay have had their privacy breached when files went missing during a travelling orthotics clinic.

19 patients of Janeway Children's Hospital affected

Eastern Health Vice President of Privacy Ron Johnson says he doesn't believe the lost information has been misused in any way. (CBC)

A privacy breach at Eastern Health — which includes names, addresses and MCP numbers — has affected 19 patients in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

"As far as we can tell, it was an accidental breach that occurred," Ron Johnson, vice president of privacy at Eastern Health, told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning

"It's very unfortunate and as an organization we are very sorry to those patients that this has happened to, and we really apologize for that."

The breach happened when a multi-disciplinary team travelled from St. John's to Happy Valley-Goose Bay in June for a week-long orthotics rehab clinic. The annual visit requires clinicians to take paper files in a locked bag and transport them to the clinic in Labrador. 

The person responsible for the files thought he had brought them back to St. John's when the clinic was finished, Johnson said. When a patient called in late September about a follow-up, the clinician realized the files were missing.

The next day, another patient from the program called and the same thing happened. 

Johnson said, after performing an exhaustive search of the sites in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and St. John's, the files have not been found.

"The information that's in the file, we haven't heard of any particular issues or anyone finding the files," Johnson said.

"The types of information that is there, along with some identifying information, the medical information is specific to the orthotics clinic. So we don't believe that it was misused in any way, but we can't be sure. And, again, it was an accidental breach and we're trying to learn from it so we can prevent that type of problem from happening again."

Johnson said it's not uncommon for medical disciplines — such as orthotics — to use paper rather than electronic files.

"We're working towards one complete electronic record, but at this point in time we're not there yet," Johnson said.

"But we continue to strive to get there."

While the investigation is still underway — Johnson said it will likely be completed next week — there aren't any planned consequences for the clinician responsible for losing the files, Johnson said.

"I would think that the types of consequences would be more of a learning so we can prevent this from happening again," he said.

"It was unintentional, but we need as an organization to learn from these types of issues so that we can prevent them from happening again." 

With files from Labrador Morning