Sensitive health records found in trash dump
December 19, 2018
YELLOWKNIFE, NWT – The Northwest Territories’ privacy commissioner says she will investigate what she calls a “major breach,” after CBC reported that a man found hundreds of confidential medical records at a dump.
The documents found in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., contain detailed information about patients’ mental health and history of drug use, including applications to addictions treatment facilities, progress reports from those facilities, and detailed notes from one-on-one counselling sessions.
The files also included social insurance, treaty and health card numbers.
“[These are] clearly very sensitive documents and they shouldn’t have been out there,” said Elaine Keenan Bengts (pictured), the N.W.T’s information and privacy commissioner.
Keenan Bengts said she knew very little about the situation. But she said it, and the stolen laptop breach this past summer that she’s still investigating, constitute as “major breaches.” The laptop computer was stolen from an employee’s locked car in Ottawa, affecting up to 80 percent of N.W.T. residents’ health records.
“These sorts of breaches are problematic,” she said. “These big ones should never happen.”
Randal Sibbeston says he found the files in a Bankers Box at the Fort Simpson dump. Keenan Bengts said she wrote to Randal Sibbeston, who discovered the files, asking him to hand over the records as evidence for her review.
Keenan Bengts added that if individuals find documents like these, they should be handed over immediately to the department, local clinic or the RCMP, because they contain sensitive information.
Julie Green, MLA for Yellowknife Centre, said on Friday that she asked Health Minister Glen Abernethy to investigate why the documents were in the landfill. She wants him to report back to MLAs and the public, and inform the people whose data has been breached.
“I think there is confidence in the health records system, but there have been a number of privacy breaches,” said Green. “I think that people are aware of those and they’re concerned about them.”