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Former Eastern Health employee sentenced for snooping in private files

Former Eastern Health employee Renée King hides her face from the media after she was convicted in provincial court Thursday of unlawfully accessing patients’ private medical files.
Former Eastern Health employee Renée King hides her face from the media after she was convicted in provincial court Thursday of unlawfully accessing patients’ private medical files.

Renée King lost her job, was fined $1,000 for unlawfully accessing patients’ medical information

A former Eastern Health employee admitted in court Thursday to snooping in patients’ confidential health records, earning herself a $1,000 fine.

Renée King, 39, was working at the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre early last year when she unlawfully accessed the medical files of 25 patients, reportedly including eight-year-old cancer awareness advocate Neveah Denine.

King sobbed and hid her face with her jacket during her appearance in provincial court in St. John’s Thursday, where she pleaded guilty to a charge of accessing the confidential information.

King accessed the files between Jan. 17 and Feb. 25, 2016. Her activity was discovered as a result of a random audit in her department, and she was fired as a result. There’s no indication King used the information in any way.

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King had been employed by Eastern Health for nearly 11 years — 10 years in housekeeping and seven months in a clerical position. Her duties at the time she accessed the private information were to input patient death data and to send test results to doctors.

At the time King snooped in the files, Neveah was an in-patient at the Janeway, undergoing cancer treatment. Well known for her efforts to raise money for other families dealing with pediatric cancer, Neveah had been diagnosed with a rare form of the disease at age four.

Her mother, Holly Denine, told The Telegram at the time that Neveah’s file contained information she hadn’t shared with family members because she didn’t want to worry them.

Prosecutor Vikas Khaladkar told the court Eastern Health requires employees to log into a computer and then a records system, each with the employees’ unique passwords, to access it. Access is logged.

Audits of King’s computer showed she had engaged in “sustained, improper views of patient information,” Khaladkar said.

“Ms. King acknowledges that she wilfully and improperly accessed the private health information of patients that she was not entitled to access,” he told Judge Jacqueline Brazil.

King’s lawyer, Tammy Drover, told the court King is a single mother who has suffered from depression and anxiety because of what she did.

“Ms. King has had a difficult time trying to deal with what has happened,” Drover said. “She would like to tell the court how remorseful and sorry she is. She certainly accepts her responsibility.”

Khaladkah and Drover submitted a joint recommendation for the $1,000 fine for King, which is consistent with what others previously convicted under the Personal Health Information Act have received.

Brazil noted King’s sentence could have been much stiffer, with the maximum penalty being a $10,000 fine or six months in jail.

Neveah’s mother said Thursday she hopes King’s case deters others from doing the same thing, and she hopes King learned her lesson.

“Peace of mind for me is not jail or fines, but knowing she couldn’t do it again. I’m happy Eastern Heath caught it quick,” she said.

 

Tara.bradbury@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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