Ontario's privacy commissioner looking into data breach at Pickering long-term care home

Ontario's Minister of Long-term Care, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, reported a potential data breach at a Pickering, Ont. long-term care home on Saturday. 

Long-term care minister said she learned of 'disturbing news' out of Orchard Villa Saturday

Ontario's Minister of Long-term Care, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, reported a 'significant privacy breach' at Orchard Villa, a long-term care home in Pickering. (Angelina King/CBC)

Ontario's privacy commissioner says he has been informed of a privacy breach involving personal health information of residents at a Pickering, Ont. long-term care home that's already been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Saturday evening, Ontario's minister of long-term care Merilee Fullerton tweeted about "disturbing news" Orchard Villa Retirement Residence

"There is a possibility of a significant privacy breach regarding individual resident personal health info," she wrote in the tweet. "My heart goes out to the residents and families, during what is already a very difficult time." 

"Our government takes personal privacy very seriously, and we are continuing to monitor this situation closely," Fullerton wrote. 

In a statement Monday, privacy commissioner Brian Beamish confirmed his office is looking into the breach.

"We understand the breach has been contained and will be working with them to determine the facts in addition to ensuring that safeguards are in place to prevent further breaches," the statement said, adding the home has begun an internal investigation.

Orchard Villa has been one of the hardest-hit Ontario long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Friday, the home reported a total of 69 deaths at its long-term care and retirement homes. 

"Privacy breaches of personal health information is a very serious matter," Beamish said.

"The confidentiality and security of this information is vital if Ontarians are to have confidence in our health care system and long-term care homes, especially during a pandemic.