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Police now have private health files found in N.W.T. dump, says health authority

The CEO of the N.W.T. health authority says the major breach is a 'disturbing and evolving situation,' as hundreds of patients' health records were found recently at a Fort Simpson dump.

RCMP have the files and will deliver them to the privacy commissioner in Yellowknife

Hundreds of N.W.T. health records were found at the dump in Fort Simpson, N.W.T. RCMP are now transporting the files to Yellowknife, according to a news release Saturday. (Hilary Bird/CBC)

Hundreds of patients' health records found at a dump in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., are now with the RCMP and will soon be en route to Yellowknife.

Once there, the police will hand over the files to the territory's information and privacy commissioner Elaine Keenan Bengts, according to a N.W.T. Health and Social Services Authority news release Saturday afternoon.

The documents, found by Randal Sibbeston, contain detailed information about patients' mental health and history of drug use, including applications to addictions treatment facilities, progress reports from those facilities, and detailed notes from one-on-one counselling sessions. 

The files also included social insurance, treaty and health card numbers.

This is a disturbing and evolving situation.- Sue Cullen, CEO of N.W.T. Health and Social Services Authority

Keenan Bengts told CBC Friday that she contacted Sibbeston and requested him to hand over the files to her as evidence for her review.

Sibbeston "turned the documents over to the RCMP," says the release Saturday.

As of Friday, the files were still with Randal Sibbeston who found them. The territory's privacy commissioner Elaine Keenan Bengts said she requested Sibbeston to hand them over to her office for her review. (Hilary Bird/CBC)

"This is a disturbing and evolving situation," said the health authority's CEO Sue Cullen, in the release.

Cullen said the authority is committed to providing the public updates as the investigation continues — as to who did this, and why the documents were found at a landfill.

The authority stated it will "focus on accountability, policy and processes" to prevent further breaches. 

The territory's health department has a history of patient privacy breaches.

Most recently, a laptop was stolen from an employee's locked car in Ottawa, affecting up to 80 per cent of N.W.T. residents' health records.

Between April 2016 and March 2017, the information and privacy commissioner investigated eight files under the Health Information Act, including three breaches of patient data

USB stick with 4,000 patient records was temporarily lost in 2014; in 2010 and 2012 medical records were accidentally faxed to CBC.

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