Nova Scotia

After latest health privacy breaches, N.S. woman speaks out about her experience

After hearing about recent Nova Scotia Health privacy breaches a Hammonds Plains woman is speaking out about her own experience. Carley Kynock-Bytheway says her medical files were accessed between 2018 and 2019 by her ex's new partner.

Carley Kynock-Bytheway's health records were improperly accessed by ex's new partner

Carley Kynock-Bytheway says she found out her medical records were improperly accessed in 2019. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Carley Kynock-Bytheway says she was appalled when she heard who had been snooping in her medical files.

"I was very upset. I was horrified," said the mother from Hammonds Plains, N.S. "A million questions then start coming into your head, like, what did she see? What did she do?"

Nova Scotia Health admitted in early August that two medical clerks had improperly accessed the medical records of 211 patients at two Nova Scotia hospitals. 

Kynock-Bytheway​​​​​​​'s breach was never made public. 

It involved a medical transcriptionist based in Halifax who improperly viewed medical records of 60 different patients in 2018 and 2019.

Kynock-Bytheway​​​​​​​ is speaking out after reading news reports of other breaches. 

"If it keeps happening, I'm wondering, is this going to happen again?" she said. 

'I definitely felt violated'

Kynock-Bytheway​​​​​​​ was informed of her breach by mail in August of 2019. She then phoned a privacy officer with Nova Scotia Health who told her further details, including the name of the employee who accessed her files, and the fact that she had been terminated from her position. 

Kynock-Bytheway​​​​​​​ said she recognized the medical transcriptionist's name right away — it was her ex's new partner. 

"It meant that my ex's girlfriend had been reading my medical files. I remember I had a big reaction on the phone with the woman who I called," Kynock-Bytheway​​​​​​​ said. 

Kynock-Bytheway says her friends and family were also targeted in the breach. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

She was told that the transcriptionist had accessed her medical files electronically while working from home, often shortly after her medical appointments. 

"[She] had been viewing them within, I believe, 12 hours to two to three days after I had them," Kynock-Bytheway​​​​​​​ said.  "So I felt a bit stalked, that she'd known where I was and where I had been shortly after I'd been there. It was very disconcerting. I definitely felt violated."

Nova Scotia Health sent her a printout of every record the transcriptionist looked at. It contained a list of 291 records, including X-rays, blood work, psychological reports and doctors' notes. 

"She viewed private and sensitive information that she has no business to see," Kynock-Bytheway​​​​​​​ said. 

Family and close friend also targeted

She said Nova Scotia Health would not identify the other breach victims, but she said her mother and brother both received letters informing them of similar privacy violations.

So did Kynock-Bytheway​​​​​​​'s close friend Carla Munroe, who also lives in Hammonds Plains. 

"I've been victimized. There's no recourse for me. I just have to live with that in hopes that she is not going to share this information. And it's pretty scary to think of the things people could have access to," Munroe said. 

Kynock-Bytheway wants to see changes in Nova Scotia Health's systems and policies to prevent future breaches. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Munroe said the same transcriptionist viewed records of Munroe's cancer treatments, which included test results and conversations with her doctors about her mental state. 

"I wanted to speak out just to let people know that this is something that is happening. There were almost 60 people involved in this particular breach.... and I don't see any changes being made," Munroe said. 

"There's no internal policies that have changed or procedures that may protect somebody else in this situation."

Nova Scotia Health responds

Health officials cannot speak to details of Kynock-Bytheway​​​​​​​'s breach, but can confirm it took place. 

"We can verify that 60 notification letters went out between August and September 2019 regarding privacy breaches that involved a single employee who no longer works for Nova Scotia Health," Nova Scotia Health spokesperson Brendan Elliott said in an email.  
 
Elliot said the matter has been referred to the province's Information and privacy commissioner. 
 
"We won't be commenting on the case while it's under review," he said.

CBC News reached out to the former employee responsible for the breach, but she declined to comment.
 
Meanwhile, Kynock-Bytheway​​​​​​​ wants to see Nova Scotia Health make meaningful change in policies and systems to prevent future breaches. 

"They're obviously not doing enough auditing," she said, pointing to the fact her files were unnecessarily accessed for more than a year. 
 
"Maybe they need to update or implement a new system.... You'd think something could happen to prevent this from continuing," she said. 

MORE TOP STORIES

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Julian

Reporter

Jack Julian joined CBC Nova Scotia as an arts reporter in 1997. His news career began on the morning of Sept. 3, 1998 following the crash of Swissair 111. He is now a data journalist in Halifax, and you can reach him at (902) 456-9180, by email at jack.julian@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @jackjulian

now