Health records found at dump now in hands of N.W.T. privacy commissioner

Over the weekend the files were turned over to the RCMP, who transported them to Yellowknife. Now, the N.W.T. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elaine Keenan Bengts has the files that were originally found at a landfill.

Health authority employees are also sifting through documents that were found at Fort Simpson landfill

Elaine Keenan Bengts, the N.W.T. privacy commissioner, says she will investigate the 'major breach,' which could take up to six months. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC)

Sensitive medical records that were found at the Fort Simpson dump are now at the N.W.T. privacy commissioner's office.

A local man, Randal Sibbeston, recently found hundreds of files in the salvage area of the landfill and contacted CBC News. The documents contain applications to addictions treatment facilities, progress reports from those facilities, and detailed notes from one-on-one counselling sessions.

Over the weekend Sibbeston turned the files over to the RCMP who transported them to Yellowknife. Now, the N.W.T. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elaine Keenan Bengts has the files.

Late last week she called the incident a "major breach," saying this never should have happened. Her office says it will take up to six months for her to conduct the investigation into how the files ended up at the landfill. She'll write a report on her findings, which may include how the Department of Health can better protect patient privacy. 

Randal Sibbeston says he found the files in a Bankers Box at the Fort Simpson dump. (Hilary Bird/CBC)

The office said employees with the health authority are also going through the documents, which contain patients' names, addresses, social insurance and health card numbers, and detailed information about their mental health and history of drug use.

Under the N.W.T. Privacy Act, the health authority must contact everyone whose information was in those files.

The authority is also launching an investigation. It previously said in a statement that its investigation will focus on the "root causes, accountability, and on identifying any processes or procedures that need improvement."

Breaches within the N.W.T. health-care system are not rare. From confidential faxes accidentally being sent to CBC, to a lost USB stick with thousands of patients' information, to a stolen laptop containing 80 per cent of residents' health data, there have been multiple breaches in recent years.

With files from Hilary Bird


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