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Health authority fires employee who peeked into files of celebrities

Private health records similar to those shown here from the United States were accessed by a Vancouver Health Employee in November 2012.

Brad Bower/Reuters

Vancouver Coastal Health has fired an employee who inappropriately accessed the electronic health records of five local media personalities.

The privacy breach was discovered during a routine audit of patient file access by VCH's privacy office in late November, the health authority said in a news release. The file access "popped up as being a little unusual because of the linkages with some known individuals," VCH spokesman Clay Adams said.

"When questioned, [the employee] stated they had looked at the records for 'curiosity,'" the release stated. "They confirmed the information viewed had not been shared verbally or in writing with anyone else."

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The female employee worked in a clerical role and had been employed by VCH for several years. She was entitled to have access to records to assist doctors and nurses, but was not allowed to view the five records she saw. By viewing them, she violated a confidentiality agreement each employee is required to sign.

"It also violates the trust people place in us and we apologize not only to those directly impacted by this but to all our patients, clients and residents," David Ostrow, president and CEO of VCH, said.

Mr. Adams said the employee was fired, and the patients notified by phone and in writing, on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. News1130 has confirmed one their personalities among the group.

Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid called the breach "completely unacceptable."

"We're taking it very seriously and I am extremely concerned about it," she said on Thursday. "No patients, whether they're famous or not, should ever have their medical records accessed except for healthcare reasons.

"But I am happy we have a good auditing system that was able to pick this up. There are thousands of health care providers who have access to patient charts that would never dream to do something like this."

Last fall, the health records of 450 patients were compromised when a Vancouver Coastal Health laptop and USB drive were stolen from the Toronto airport.

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About the Author
News reporter

Based in Vancouver, Andrea Woo is a general assignment reporter with a focus on multimedia journalism. More

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