Island Health acts on privacy breach

June 14, 2016

VICTORIA – Island Health has investigated incidents involving two employees who breached the privacy of 198 individuals receiving services through Island Health.

Island Health is in the process of notifying the individuals who are impacted by this breach. We apologize to those individuals affected.

Island Health’s investigation confirmed the employees used their access privileges to view the records of patients with whom they had no care or service relationship.

The investigation began after a routine audit was run of employee access to the Electronic Health Record. Steps were taken immediately to ensure the employees’ access to personal or confidential information was revoked and the BC Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) was notified.

While the individuals affected are from a number of communities across Vancouver Island and beyond, the employees were based in Victoria. Privacy legislation prevents Island Health from discussing the specifics of personnel matters, but we can confirm that the employees no longer work for Island Health.

It is unacceptable that any employee uses his or her access privileges to view patients’ records. Such actions are contradictory to our organizational values and policies, and represent an exception to the high standard and ethical practice of staff and physicians working at Island Health. All Island Health employees and physicians are well-oriented to the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of sensitive information and the consequences of violating policy in this area.

Access to patient records for reasons other than authorized work-related purposes directly contravenes Island Health’s Terms of Employment.

Island Health’s confidentiality policy further sets out specific examples of behaviours that are a breach. This includes “unauthorized reading of a patient’s chart” and “accessing information on yourself, children, family, friends or co-workers” when the employee does not need to see or know that information to do their job.

Island Health provides extensive, ongoing education and awareness for staff and physicians related to privacy. Unauthorized access to patient files is a breach of our code of conduct, is a violation of privacy and will not be tolerated. We are assessing our practices now to mitigate any future violations.

This situation is unfortunate and we again apologize to those who have been affected.  

Central/North Island media inquiries
Valerie Wilson
Manager, Regional Communications

South Island media inquiries
Kellie Hudson
Media Relations Manager