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Northern Ontario health unit apologizes after COVID-19 patient privacy breach
SUDBURY -- The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit apologized Thursday after revealing there was a privacy breach that resulted in the personal information of patients tested for COVID-19 being posted online.
"A member of the public reported the breach to the health unit," the organization said in a news release. "The likelihood of someone else having accessed the information is quite low because it was not immediately visible and accessing it required a number of steps that were not obvious."
The breach was accessible to the public through the online COVID-19 dashboard, which contained information related to the number of local COVID-19 tests and confirmed cases.
"Information that was accidentally made accessible was first and last name, municipality, unique identifying number (but not OHIP number), testing date and location, and the test result (if available)," the release said. "It may also have included a telephone number. There was no other health, financial or personal information accessible through our dashboard. The dashboard has since been removed from the health unit’s website."
“Our team has been working around the clock to ensure our community is safe, cared for and has access to accurate and timely information as we collectively battle COVID-19," Dr. Jim Chirico, Medical Officer of Health said in the release. "We also take very seriously our obligation to respect and maintain individual privacy. This mistake should not have happened and I am very sorry it did.”
After the health unit was made aware of the issue, it immediately removed the information from its website and launched an investigation. The privacy breach affects those individuals whose permanent address is in the Health Unit district and were tested for COVID-19 on or before May 8.
“We are reviewing our training and quality processes to ensure such mistakes do not happen again,” Chirico said in the release.
Anyone affected by the breach will be notified by telephone or mail. The incident has also been reported to the appropriate authorities, including the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.
The public is urged to reach out to the Health Unit directly with any questions through its call centre at 1-800-563-2808 and select option 7 or through the website.