‘Snooping’ costs 8 Hamilton Health Sciences workers their jobs

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Published August 28, 2023 at 3:30 pm

Hamilton Health Sciences has fired eight employees for inappropriately accessing the personal health information of about 4,000 patients.

“There is no evidence that patients’ health information was printed, downloaded, or electronically shared with anyone,” Hamilton Health Sciences wrote in a media release announcing it had completed its privacy breach investigation today (Aug. 28). “We have concluded that these were snooping cases. HHS deems these actions unacceptable and has terminated all eight employees involved.”

The hospital network includes 15,000 staff, physicians, researchers and volunteers in southwestern Ontario who work in hospitals such as Hamilton General, Juravinski Hospital and McMaster Children’s Hospital. It said it is consistently looking for ways to improve its practices to further minimize the risk of privacy breaches.

“We want to sincerely apologize to everyone who is affected by the breach,” said Aaron Levo, vice-president of people, culture and communications, in a statement. “This incident is not consistent with HHS’ values or those of our staff and physicians at large. Every patient has a right to privacy and everyone at HHS is trained and educated to safeguard this right.”

Hamilton Health Sciences said it issued a letter to the affected patients. It also informed the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and the former employees’ regulatory colleges. 

The hospital said it has policies, systems and processes in place to prevent privacy breaches. This includes privacy training for all staff, physicians and learners when they are first hired or for annual refresher sessions. Routine, random audits of access to patient information are also done. In addition, the hospital network does an ongoing review of its systems and information-sharing practices to “ensure patient privacy is being upheld to the greatest extent possible.”

“Staff, physicians and learners at HHS are expected to adhere to these policies, the requirements of their regulatory colleges, and provincial privacy legislation,” it wrote in the press release.

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