News / Halifax

Employees 'deliberately' accessed private files of more than 300 Nova Scotians: health authority

The Nova Scotia Health Authority is apologizing to hundreds of people after two separate privacy breach incidents

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Metro file

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Action is being taken against six Halifax-area Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) employees who “deliberately” and inappropriately accessed hundreds of personal health records.

The NSHA recently wrapped up audits into privacy breaches related to two incidents where 337 people’s health records were accessed: one stemming from a patient complaint in July 2016, and the second after a manager raised concerns this past January.

“People were deliberately looking up other information or records, and that really is when we get into … a notifiable breach of confidentiality,” Colin Stevenson, vice president of quality, system performance and transformation said Monday.

Stevenson said although the actions of the six employees (three in each incident) were not results of human error or accident, there’s also nothing to indicate that there was a specific motivation behind them - and there’s no evidence the information was shared outside of the NSHA.

The authority takes any privacy violation very seriously, Stevenson said, and although he could not comment on what happened with the six employees, anyone in a similar situation would be subject to disciplinary action “which may include termination.”

The 2016 case involved information from 244 people being accessed, and 93 people in the 2017 incident, Stevenson said.

Everyone affected will hear directly from the NSHA and be able to discuss the details of these privacy breaches, and Stevenson said they are taking steps like continuing privacy education, confidentiality pledges, and have upgraded their technical abilities for audits so they can find out when records have been inappropriately accessed.

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