'Frustrating': Interior Health stonewalls victim after nurse snoops on her medical records | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna News

'Frustrating': Interior Health stonewalls victim after nurse snoops on her medical records


A Kelowna woman who had her private medical records accessed by a nurse at Kelowna hospital says Interior Health failed in its duty of care.

The woman says she found out someone had been snooping around in her medical records when a mutual acquaintance somehow knew private information about her.

"I was shocked," she told iNFOnews.ca. "It was a huge invasion of privacy... I'm surprised at how easy it is for somebody to access."

After she heard the gossip about herself, the woman reported the issue to Interior Health but was largely left in the dark.

In a twist of bitter irony, Interior Health then told the woman that it couldn't disclose what action it was taking against the nurse who had looked at her records because of confidentially.

"Unfortunately, we are unable to provide a letter explaining the details and/or outcome of our investigation," Interior Health wrote to the woman.

She then tried to access what information had been spied on.

"I requested the medical reports (that were) accessed through Interior Health, I was given numbers, but they don’t mean anything to me," she said.

The woman said she found out the nurse had checked her medical records six times in one day, but it was impossible to work out what records were accessed from the information she was given.

When she pushed to find out what records had been accessed she never heard back from Interior Health.

"My privacy was violated but you can't even tell me what exactly was violated," she said, describing the experience as "frustrating."

Fed-up, she then reported the incident to the nursing regulator, the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives.

READ MORE: Kelowna nurse suspended for checking non-patient medical records

On July 2, the College published a decision saying Kelowna registered nurse Sondra Bader had admitted to checking the private medical records of a non-patient and suspended her for eight days.

Bader will also have to undergo remedial education on privacy and confidentiality as part of her punishment.

However, what action, if any, Interior Health took against Bader isn't known. It also appears the hospital didn't report Bader to the regulator.

The college told iNFOnews.ca it couldn't disclose any information about whether or not Interior Health had reported Bader.

However, the timeline suggests the health authority didn't report Bader.

Why the health authority didn't do this is unknown.

Interior Health didn't respond to our questions instead saying it couldn't speak to details regarding specific personnel issues, but that it took patient privacy "very seriously."

"When inappropriate access has been identified, the employee’s manager and HR are notified immediately. Anyone proven to be non-compliant with these policies would be subject to appropriate discipline, based on the severity of the privacy breach," Interior Health said in an emailed statement.

So did the hospital have a responsibility to report Bader to the regulator?

The college said under the Health Professions Act employers must report to the regulator if a medical professional's continued conduct might be a "danger to the public."

The college said each organization had to use their judgment, as to what a "danger" is.

The issue of staff checking media records without cause appears to be relatively common.

In June, Vernon nurse Michael Wood was suspended for six months for checking medical records along with several other infractions.

In the spring, Kelowna nurse Megan Angel Munoz was suspended for three weeks after accessing the personal health records of two individuals, one of which she was considering hiring as a nanny.

The woman questions why the computer system didn't flag the unusual activity, and whether it has the capacity to do so.

"With today's technology, if somebody is not in the hospital, not under care, (then) why is everybody that is in the hospital able to access their records?" she said.

Interior Health said staff access to medical records is managed by "leveraging a series of roles-based and region-based access controls." 

The health authority said audits are performed several times per week to ensure staff are using their access appropriately.

As for the eight-day suspension, this actually works out that the nurse will lose one block of shifts over four days.

The woman described the punishment as "extremely inadequate."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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