AHS drops disciplinary action against nurses after alleged privacy breach

The Alberta Health Services office.
The Alberta Health Services office. File/Global News

CALGARY – Alberta Health Services (AHS) has withdrawn all formal disciplinary actions against 24 nurses after an alleged privacy breach in September at South Health Campus in Calgary.

A United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) bulletin said the members were “improperly accused in mid-October of having inappropriately accessed a patient’s information” and disputed the allegations. UNA filed grievances on behalf of all members in the case and called for the resignation of former AHS CEO Vickie Kaminski.

READ MORE: Alberta Health Services says employees face discipline for patient privacy breach

The nurses accused in the breach faced serious discipline, including termination in one case, said UNA.

“But as NewsBulletin went to press on December 11, AHS informed UNA it was withdrawing discipline for all the nurses in the SHC Emergency Room related to allegations,” said the bulletin.

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UNA said AHS told the group letters of discipline would be withdrawn and removed from the 24 members’ files, and the nurses would be reimbursed for lost wages. It said AHS would also advise the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta that the discipline had been withdrawn.

AHS said the decision to drop and reduce charges for some members came after “further investigation and grievance resolution meetings” with the UNA and meetings with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE). AHS said more patient privacy education, including clarifying best practices for accessing information, is required for employees.

“We will launch further education and training to ensure staff understand their obligations related to patient privacy so patients can remain confident their health information is being accessed appropriately,” Brenda Huband, vice president and chief health operations officer of central and southern Alberta, said in a statement.

AHS said disciplinary action remains in place for employees who “clearly had no professional reason to access patient information” but said patient care was not compromised as a result of the incident.

“As we said at the time, the employer did not have a proper case against our members and seriously overstepped the bounds of the law and our collective agreement when it identified members affected in a press release and other documents,” UNA labour relations director David Harrigan said in the bulletin. “We are gratified but not surprised by this outcome and pleased AHS has committed to learning from its actions in this situation.”

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Kaminski announced her resignation Nov. 27, citing a personal decision.

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