Health confidence reset

George Macvicar
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It’s somewhat reassuring to know our regional health authorities are doing what they believe they can to protect patient confidentiality.

New computer technology now being adopted can identify unwarranted intrusions into patients’ private files.

But it makes one uneasy to think if you had been a patient in one of our provincial health care centres requiring medical care, more than just those individuals providing that care have had access to your personal information.

Eastern Health fired five nurses and disciplined several others last month for accessing patients’ files – patients not under their care. And last week, Western Health and Central Health both revealed they also fired employees for the same thing.

In the first instance, the nurse in question confessed to doing this during her 10-year career – in fact, in one case it was her basement tenant in her home that she found it necessary to invade his/her privacy.

Eastern Health declared a total of 122 patients were violated in this manner.

One woman claimed she found out her information was accessed because of gossip circulating on her street! Wouldn’t policing authorities be contacted in this instance?

At Western Health, the authority said a clerk accessed over 1,000 files, obviously without appropriate permission and thus the firing.

These are the health employees the authorities know about! But more are coming to light weekly, almost daily.

It was disturbing to hear Health Minister Susan Sullivan say she wasn’t too upset since it involved ‘only’ two employees in the 21,000 workers at the four health authorities.

Prior to computerized inputting of medical information, patients’ files were kept on hard copy in a record keeping department and had to be signed out if required during a patient’s stay in hospital.

Since the introduction of computers to record patient information, employees have had easier access to files.

It has to be pointed out the majority of health care workers (doctors, nurses, clerks, support staff, etc.) are professional and honest in their approach to their jobs, but there is always a small percentage of individuals who can’t fight that inquisitive urge no matter what the job.

It only takes one person and all the ‘oaths of secrecy and privacy’ are sent sailing out the window!

Why do individuals violate others’ confidences or rights? Unfortunately, it’s human nature.

As a former patient at Eastern Health in the past year, I have to believe all who assisted me were ‘professionals’ with no reason to believe otherwise.

But, when the employers of these professionals’ are telling the general public there are workers who have violated patients’ privacy, then there can only be feelings of uneasiness, lack of trust, concern and fear the patient violated my be yourself.

The result is a long road to restoring confidence your innermost privacies will once again be your own. How many times though do we have to have the ‘reset button’ engaged to restore our confidence in health care services?

George Macvicar, Editor/Manager

Geographic location: Eastern Health

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