Nfld. & Labrador

Privacy concerns steer hospital employees to abortion clinic: owner

More women in Newfoundland and Labrador are heading to a private clinic to have an abortion, and not a hospital, the clinic's owner says.

More women in Newfoundland and Labrador are heading to a private clinic to have an abortion, and not a hospital, the clinic's owner says. 

Numbers obtained by CBC News show about 80 per cent of abortions in the province are performed at the Athena Health Centre in St. John's.

Rolanda Ryan says some Eastern Health employees have been scared by recent privacy breaches. (CBC)

That number has increased 10 per cent in the last five years, owner and manager Rolanda Ryan says. 

The Athena Health Centre — which formerly operated as a Morgentaler clinic — is the last private abortion clinic in Atlantic Canada.

Ryan said she has noticed that women are increasingly concerned about protecting their privacy.

Ryan said some of her patients are health workers who choose the clinic because they worry a hospital record of their abortion could be inappropriately accessed.

"Certainly we've seen employees from Eastern Health come in here who openly say, I work in that environment and I know that not many people snoop, but I've seen it personally happen and I don't want to risk my information being out there," she said.

"It's a bit scary to them, I guess."

In the past two years, all four of Newfoundland and Labrador's regional health authorities have dealt with privacy breaches and have taken legal action.

All cases involved at least one employee who inappropriately accessed patient records.

The Athena Health clinic says it performed 820 therapeutic abortions in 2013. Eastern Health performed 213.

Three quarters of the women who underwent the procedure were from communities that fall within Eastern Health's authority.

Health and Community Services Minister Steve Kent says that no one has made a case to extend abortion access to areas outside St. John's. 

Apart from the Athena clinic, all other abortions in the province are performed at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's. 

For its part, Eastern Health says it puts a high value on patient privacy, and does not tolerate breaches when they are identified. 

"Eastern Health has no reason to believe that an increase in the number of abortions performed at the Athena Health Centre is linked to concerns related to patient privacy and confidentiality," the authority said in a statement to CBC News. 

With files from Vik Adhopia

now