Nova Scotia

Hundreds of people to be notified after patient records breached

The Nova Scotia Health Authority says it is contacting 337 people after six employees accessed patients’ personal health information.

337 patients records breached in Halifax and West Hants

The Nova Scotia Health Authority says people whose privacy was breached will be receiving letters. (Shutterstock)

The Nova Scotia Health Authority says it is contacting 337 people after six employees looked up the personal health information of patients.

Staff members were working in the health authority's central zone at the time, which includes facilities in Halifax and West Hants but not the IWK Health Centre.

The breaches were discovered following two separate investigations, said Colin Stevenson, the health authority's vice-president of quality, system performance and transformation.

2 separate investigations

The first was launched after a patient lodged a complaint in July 2016. The health authority subsequently found three staff members inappropriately accessed the records of 244 people, said Stevenson.

That investigation wrapped up in January but the health authority said it took several months to identify the affected patients.

Stevenson said the remaining breaches were discovered after a manager flagged unrelated concerns, also in January of this year. The health authority conducted audits and found three other employees had accessed 93 files.

All the cases involve electronic medical records.

Information wasn't shared

Stevenson couldn't say what type of information staff looked up except that it was "beyond what it necessary for them to perform their work." 

"Based on the investigation, it doesn't appear any of the information that was accessed was shared outside of the organization or with others. However, any breach for us is significant," he said. 

The health authority reported both cases to the province's information and privacy commissioner, he said.

Stevenson said disciplinary actions is taken when staff don't follow policies and violate a patient's privacy. He said he couldn't specify what happened in these cases or if the people involved are still employees.

People receiving letters

People whose records were accessed will be receiving a letter from the health authority. He said the affected patients accessed health care in the central zone but they could live elsewhere.

Stevenson said the patients are welcome to call to discuss any concerns they may have.