Pri­vacy breach pay­out

Pa­tients who were vic­tims of file snoop­ing re­ceive cheque from law­suit


Cheques were de­liv­ered last week to the hun­dreds of vic­tims of a pri­vacy breach at Rose­way Hos­pi­tal.

The peo­ple whose pri­vacy was breached are each be­ing is­sued a $1,000 cheque.

On June 22, the Nova Sco­tia Supreme Court in Hal­i­fax ruled on a class ac­tion law­suit, say­ing that Rose­way Hos­pi­tal had up to 40 days to pay out $1 mil­lion in to­tal.

In ad­di­tion to the in­di­vid­ual pay­outs to those who pri­vacy was breached, the re­main­der of the money will pay the le­gal fees for the law­suit.

In 2012, the South West Nova District Health Au­thor­ity sent let­ters to 707 peo­ple ex­plain­ing that their pri­vacy had been breached when it was dis­cov­ered an ad­mis­sions clerk had in­ap­pro­pri­ately ac­cessed sev­eral hun­dred pa­tient files. The clerk was re­port­edly only au­tho­rized to look at a dozen of those files.

The au­thor­ity be­gan an in­ves­ti­ga­tion when it was dis­cov­ered the clerk had been sift­ing through med­i­cal records over sev­eral months with­out a valid rea­son.

The de­ci­sion on this case set a prece­dent in Cana­dian court­rooms on breach of pri­vacy, ac­cord­ing to at­tor­ney Ray­mond Wag­ner, a lawyer who rep­re­sented the 681 el­i­gi­ble class mem­bers in what was said to be the big­gest pri­vacy breach case in Canada to go be­fore the court.

“It is the first in­tru­sion upon seclu­sion case in Canada to have a res­o­lu­tion with mone­tary reper­cus­sions,” he said at the time of the rul­ing.

Willa Magee is one of the vic­tims in­volved in the breach.

“The cheque pro­vided a wee bit of clo­sure, but not much,” says Magee.

“I have no in­di­ca­tion that the health au­thor­ity has im­proved or changed any­thing with re­gard to pro­tect­ing one’s pri­vacy.”

Nova Sco­tia Health Au­thor­ity spokesper­son Fraser Mooney says that sev­eral steps have been taken to en­sure pa­tient pri­vacy.

He says while it is im­por­tant to note there is rea­son­able ac­cess by staff and physi­cians in or­der to per­form their work role, if an em­ployee uses ac­cess be­yond their work role it is in­ap­pro­pri­ate and may breach con­fi­den­tial­ity.

“The NSHA takes sev­eral steps to en­sure that all em­ploy­ees un­der­stand ap­pro­pri­ate ac­cess and their obli­ga­tion to keep pa­tient in­for­ma­tion con­fi­den­tial, as well as to mon­i­tor ac­cess and iden­tify in­ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tiv­ity,” says Mooney.

Th­ese steps in­clude:

signed by all new staff, and stan­dard ori­en­ta­tion re­gard­ing pri­vacy across the prov­ince.

for man­agers and front-line staff.

con­fi­den­tial­ity learn­ing mo­d­ule that was in­tro­duced this sum­mer, with the ex­pec­ta­tion that all staff will com­plete and sub­mit pledge of con­fi­den­tial­ity. This is some­thing the ex­ist­ing staff is ex­pected to par­tic­i­pate in, not just new hires.

ca­pa­bil­ity in place, which is be­ing used across the prov­ince, with ad­di­tional health in­for­ma­tion sys­tems be­ing added. The au­dit is es­sen­tially a thor­ough re­view of a health record to see when and how of­ten it has been ac­cessed and for what rea­son.

The health au­thor­ity will be keep­ing an eye on things to pre­vent re­peats of this in­ci­dent.

“We con­tin­u­ally re­view our sys­tems, pro­cesses, pri­vacy poli­cies and con­fi­den­tial­ity train­ing for em­ploy­ees to re­duce the like­li­hood of this type of in­ci­dent from hap­pen­ing again,” says Mooney.

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