The Hamilton Spectator

Paramedics apologize after sending 162 patient records to wrong hospitals


Ontario’s privacy commission­er has been notified after a city review revealed Hamilton paramedics “accidental­ly” sent the sensitive health records of dozens of patients to the wrong hospital.

The three-month analysis — which parsed through the records of some 306,000 paramedic patients — found 162 people had their medical informatio­n shared with the incorrect health-care facility over the past four years, a mistake the Hamilton Paramedic Service (HPS) attributed to “human error.”

“We really regret the fact it happened. Patients have been contacted or are in the process of being contacted,” Chief Mike Sanderson said in an interview Tuesday, noting the affected patient records were never shared publicly and have since been destroyed by the hospitals they were sent to.

The internal review was launched in October after St. Joseph’s Healthcare in London advised HPS they’d received eight health records of patients who’d never been admitted to their facility.

“Those records should have gone to St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, not London,” Sanderson said, adding the subsequent review was meant to gauge the scale and cause behind previous similar breaches.

For every patient taken to hospital in ambulance, Sanderson explained, paramedics must send their health record — which includes their name, address, OHIP number and past medical history — to the hospital they’re bound for.

But in the case of the 162 affected patients, paramedics mistakenly selected the wrong health facility in the electronic “pick list” they use to submit records.

“What we found is there’s some hospitals on the pick list with similar names,” Sanderson said, “like St. Joseph’s Healthcare London and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. So we’ve (since) changed some of the naming in our system to, for example, Hamilton/St. Joseph’s.”

Sanderson added stress likely contribute­d to the errors made by 124 different paramedics over four years.

“These happened while we were dealing with COVID and paramedics were really busy, working overtime and spending a lot of time in hospitals. And it’s not an excuse, but because they had to go literally from call to call. It made it difficult for them and they were probably just too quick to pick the right hospital send off the files.”

Beyond St. Joseph’s in London, there were five other hospitals in southweste­rn Ontario that inappropri­ately received records of local patients, Sanderson said. Those facilities have been contacted and the files destroyed.

In a release Tuesday, the city said HPS has made changes to how they process personal informatio­n, including modifying its electronic patient care records systems, improving its controls and GPS validation, and institutin­g additional training for paramedics.

‘‘ These happened while we were dealing with COVID and paramedics were really busy, working overtime and spending a lot of time in hospitals.


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