CLINTON, Ont. – An Ontario student has been fined $25,000 for accessing personal health information, which provincial officials say is the highest penalty of its kind ever in Canada.
The Information and Privacy Commissioner’s office says the masters of social work student was on an educational placement with a family health team in Central Huron, in southwestern Ontario, when she accessed the information without authorization.
A statement says the student, who was not named, pleaded guilty to accessing the personal health information of five individuals contrary to the Personal Health Information Protection Act.
As part of her plea, she acknowledged she accessed the personal health information of 139 individuals between September 9, 2014 and March 5, 2015, the Canadian Press reports.
The commissioner’s office says it was told the person was illegally accessing the records of family, friends, local politicians, staff of the clinic and other individuals in the community.
The $20,000 fine and $5,000 victim surcharge handed to the student are said to be the highest fines to date for a health privacy breach in Canada. Ontario Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish (pictured) hopes this sends a message.
“Healthcare professionals need to know that this kind of behaviour, whether it’s snooping out of curiosity or for personal gain, is completely unacceptable and has serious consequences,” Beamish said in a statement. “Patient privacy is vital if Ontarians are to have confidence in their healthcare system.”