North

Gov't offers more details into response to Fort Simpson health data breach

Those impacted by a recent health-information breach that led to several documents being found in a Fort Simpson dump should expect to receive letters late next week, according to a spokesperson for the territory's health authority.

Letters sent out to impacted individuals Thursday; 2 people will handle review of sensitive records

The records were found in a box at the dump in Fort Simpson. (Hilary Bird/CBC)

Individuals impacted by a recent health-information breach that led to several documents being found in a Fort Simpson dump should expect to start receiving letters late next week, according to a spokesperson for the territory's health authority.

The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA) sent additional details on its response to the breach Thursday afternoon to CBC News. Earlier this week, the authority said 134 impacted individuals were to be notified.

In an email, spokesperson David Maguire said the letters were to be sent out by the end of the day on Thursday, though it may take some time to locate the impacted individuals.

"Some of these files date back almost 30 years," he said. "While we will send all notification to individuals for whom we can confirm addresses immediately, there may be some individuals whose notification takes longer as we will need to do some work to track down and confirm their current locations."

Maguire said the authority chose to notify impacted individuals by letter in order to "clearly and consistently communicate" with those involved and registered mail is the best option to to do that.

Gov't taking steps to minimize further impact

The records, found by resident 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.

CBC North first reported the breach last week after being contacted by Sibbeston. The files have since been handed over to the N.W.T.'s privacy commissioner.

On Wednesday, the authority announced it was undertaking an investigation into root causes and accountability in the breach, as well as determining who was responsible for mental health and addictions programming when the documents were created.

Maguire offered more details Thursday, saying the documents appear to be from a time period between 1990 and 2005, "with most files being from the 1990s."

He said two people will take on the review of the files.

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