Imagine if someone who wasn’t authorized to do so accessed your most private information, things many people only share with close family members, for no apparent reason?
That’s exactly what happened to former Central Newfoundland resident Shawna Thompson, who claims her information was inappropriately accessed by an employee of Central Health repeatedly over the course of seven years.
Now, Thompson is fighting back for herself and other patients who have been victims of serious privacy breeches by filing a class action lawsuit against Central Health.
“I feel violated, angry and very upset knowing my personal medical information has been breached, and furthermore, shared with non-essential personnel,” said Thompson in a press release issued by Bob Buckingham Law, the firm behind the suit, on Thursday afternoon.
Thompson goes on to say she believes the employee accessed her information for personal reasons.
“I am to the point I will not go to the doctor unless I am very ill, because I am fearful anything I give to a healthcare provider will be reported to someone who does not need to know my information,” she said.
The announcement of the lawsuit comes on the back of a rash of announcements of privacy breaches earlier this summer by employees of the Central, Eastern and Western health authorities in the province.
Bob Buckingham Law Offices has also recently filed for lawsuits on behalf of those affected by breaches of privacy by Eastern and Western Health; the suit against Central Health is the most recent to be filed by the firm.
“On Aug. 2, (Central Health CEO Karen McGrath) spoke with the CBC and said last year, Central Health had admitted to a serious breach of privacy involving 19 patients,” Buckingham told the Advertiser on Friday. “She also said there was two (incidents) Central Health did not disclose, and she believed those two involved cases with 10 patients or less.”
He went on to explain the employee responsible in the first case was fired, and said in the second case, the employee quit.
“Ms. Thompson’s class action is on behalf of anyone who has had their privacy breached at Central Health, including people who have been informed (of the breach) and people who have not been informed.”
Buckingham said his client has reason to believe she is part of the second group of patients whom McGrath said were not informed of the breaches, but said it’s possible her situation is separate from those previously reported incidents.
According to Buckingham, Thompson received information in November of 2011 that led her to believe her privacy had been compromised.
“She made an inquiry (to the Information and Privacy Commissioner ) about whether her privacy had been breached, and they came back and said yes.”
Among the problems Thompson claims are afflicting her as a result of this incident are anxiety and trouble sleeping.
Buckingham called the breach in Central an “institutional failure” and said it caused real personal harm to those affected.
“This is a problem in central as it is a problem all across the province,” said Buckingham. “It’s part of systemic problems within the system where the health authority really have not dealt with people’s privacy in any way, let alone in a meaningful way.”
Buckingham said now the statement of claim has been filed, he’s waiting for the defendant to file its defense so the proceedings can continue.
CEO Karen McGrath told the Advertiser Friday that Central Health had just received the statement of claim, and would speak to the matter once they’ve had the opportunity to review it.
“We wish to ensure the public that we take privacy very seriously and do have measures in place to protect personal health information,” she said.