Toronto

Ontario to double fines for medical privacy breaches; make prosecution easier

Ontario's Liberal government wants to double the fines for people who access patients' medical records without authority, and make it easier to prosecute offenders.

Proposed rules would discourage 'snooping' into patients' medical records

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins addressed privacy breaches on Wednesday. (CBC)

Ontario's Liberal government wants to double the fines for people who access patients' medical records without authority, and make it easier to prosecute offenders.

There have been problems with health-care workers accessing private medical records at hospitals in Peterborough, Sault Ste. Marie, Brantford, Toronto and elsewhere, with reports the data is sometimes sold to marketing companies.

Workers at several hospitals inappropriately accessed the medical records of former Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins said Wednesday he'll introduce legislation this fall to double fines for violations of patients' privacy to $50,000 for individuals and $500,000 for the hospital or organization.

  • High profile breaches

It would also scrap a rule requiring that prosecutions start within six months of the alleged privacy breach, which Hoskins says makes it difficult to conduct an investigation and has made prosecutions very rare.

"Patients across Ontario deserve to know that their personal health information is being protected," Hoskins said at a press conference. "There have been a number of ... high profile breaches that have occurred in hospital environments, all of them completely unacceptable." 

And in an interview with CBC News, Brian Beamish, Information & Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, said, "When there is a serious breach I think it's important to send a strong message that breaches will be prosecuted and there will be consequences to those actions. Increasing the fine, I think, helps send that message." 

With files from Mike Crawley