As you may have heard in media stories that have been reported this week, the patient records of more than 8,000 new mothers who gave birth at the Centenary site of Rouge Valley Health System (RVHS) were inappropriately accessed by two former employees for the purpose of selling Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) investments.
Obviously, this is a serious and unfortunate incident that now involves the Toronto Police, as well as the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and the Ontario Securities Commission.
This incident underscores the important legal and ethical responsibilities we all have as health care workers – staff, physicians and volunteers – to ensure the confidentiality of the patient information entrusted to us.
These responsibilities stretch much further than the Confidentiality Agreement we sign when we join the hospital. These commitments are enshrined in codes of conduct by professional Colleges and privacy legislation. Moreover, our responsibilities are tied to TSH’s core values of integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence.
For me, it’s much more fundamental than any piece of law or regulation. As public servants, it speaks to our deep obligations to act in the best interests of our patients –individuals who have entrusted us in their care. It’s our fundamental and ethical responsibility to protect our patients’ rights to privacy – it’s that simple.
As part of this policy, we consider any misuse or disclosure of confidential information without proper approvals to be unacceptable and will investigate any instance where personal health information has been potentially misdirected or accessed by individuals without consent or authorization.
If you suspect there has been a privacy breach, it is important to file a SAFE incident report and contact the hospital’s Privacy Office at extension 6690 as soon as possible. Such acts may be cause for appropriate corrective action up to and including termination of employment, loss of privileges, or other necessary action.
As part of our dedication to providing safe, high quality care, it is essential that we not lose sight of our ongoing and daily responsibility to maintain patient privacy and confidentiality. I know I can count on all of you to continue to be accountable to our patients and community in this way.