Patient left alone with confidential document raises privacy concerns

Sylvia Andrighetti says she was left alone in an examining room at the Hull Hospital in Gatineau, Que., with a document containing confidential patient information.

Sylvia Andrighetti concerned about how Hull Hospital handles patient information

Sylvia Andrighetti says she was left alone in an examination room at the Hull Hospital with a document containing the private information of some of the hospital's patients. (Michel Aspirot/Radio-Canada)

Sylvia Andrighetti was alone in an examining room at the Hull Hospital in Gatineau, Que., last month when she saw something she shouldn't have.

"I was there in the examination room for 10 minutes doing nothing but waiting," Andrighetti said in a French-language interview with Radio-Canada.

"Then I looked and, not even three feet away from me, there was a document showing a list of patients."

The sheet of paper contained a trove of confidential information: patients' names, ages, telephone numbers, health insurance numbers and appointment times.

Andrighetti said she was left alone with the document three or four times during that appointment and could have taken that information each time.

The incident, she said, has left her concerned about how the hospital handles confidential information.

Andrighetti says the incident has left her concerned about the privacy protocols at the Hull Hospital. (Radio-Canada)

The region's health authority, the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO) did not agree to an interview with Radio-Canada.

It said in a statement all doctors use these sorts of lists and they're sometimes left out if the doctor is temporarily away.

Patients should not look at the information, the health authority said.

Common incident, lawyer says 

Incidents like these are quite common in the health care system, said health lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard.

"They don't pay attention … They don't look at who's going to have access to [these documents]," Ménard told Radio-Canada in French. 

Jean-Pierre Ménard, a health lawyer and expert on patient law, says he's concerned abut how hospitals ensure patient confidentiality. (Radio-Canada)

Information protection protocols in hospitals need to be better enforced and breaches should be condemned, he said, adding that he's concerned about CISSSO's response.

The onus should be on hospital staff to ensure the patient information is kept confidential, Ménard said. 

A hidden camera investigation by Radio-Canada in 2018 also revealed lax security at the hospital's hematology and biochemistry lab.

With files from Pascale Langlois


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.