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Thousands of Alberta patient files inappropriately accessed by former AHS employee

File: Alberta Health Services.
File: Alberta Health Services. Global News

Alberta Health Services is in the process of notifying more than 1,300 people whose health information was inappropriately accessed by a former AHS employee.

AHS said the same former employee also viewed the demographic information of another 11,539 Alberta patients, including their name, address, date of birth and health care number.

The privacy breach happened between January 2004 and July 2015. Patient information was accessed through the electronic health record systems, Netcare and Netcare Personal Directory.

Because of privacy legislation, AHS would not divulge much information about the employee, other than it believes the person accessed the information “on the basis of personal curiosity.”

“All I can say is that employee is not with Alberta Health Services at this time,” Dr. Francois Belanger, interim vice president of quality with AHS, said.

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AHS said it went back and looked at everything the former employee accessed after receiving a complaint from another AHS employee.

“The protection of patient privacy is not only a legislated duty of our employees, it’s part of our patient-first culture and our values,” Belanger said.

“We take privacy incidents very seriously and continue to work with our employees to ensure they’re supported with privacy education and regular communication.”

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AHS said patient records were not altered or impacted by the privacy breach. The matter has been reported to Alberta Health and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commission of Alberta.

“The accuracy of that health care information has not been altered or tampered with,” Belanger said. “We also know that health care information has not been printed and likely not shared with anybody else.

“We understand that this information will be concerning to Albertans, and it is to us as well. Be assured: privacy is as important to us as it is to you.”

AHS said patients whose information was accessed will receive a letter in the mail. Letters started going out Monday and should be in patients’ mailboxes within five to seven business days, AHS said.

A call-in line has also been set up through Health Link to help support those affected by the privacy breach. The number for Health Link is 811.

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