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Sault Area Hospital patients meet with lawyer

Wednesday, May 14, 2014   by: Darren Taylor

A group of Sault Area Hospital (SAH) patients, whose medical records were accessed by a SAH employee not authorized to do so, met with Ottawa lawyer Michael Crystal at Algoma’s Water Tower Inn for an information session regarding possible legal action Tuesday evening.

SAH announced in mid-April an employee had inappropriately accessed patient files using the MediTech system 144 times dating back to 2008.

Many SAH staff, such as doctors, nurses, lab technicians and others, have access to medical records but access is restricted to those staff members directly involved in a particular patient’s case.

Crystal estimated 90 people attended Tuesday’s information session in Sault Ste. Marie.

“It was an information session which allowed people to have their questions answered about their rights relating to their patient privacy and the potential litigation options they have and the mechanics of a class action lawsuit,” Crystal said.

Crystal said he and two of his associates have set aside time slots throughout Wednesday, from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., to meet with affected patients at Algoma’s Water Tower Inn.

“We are going to be assessing the merits of the case,” Crystal said.

Letters were sent out from SAH to patients advising them of the breach, informing them that the SAH staff member involved (who has not been identified by SAH) has been fired, and that there was no reason to believe personal information, such as Ontario health card numbers, had been shared.

Still, the breach has left people affected by it concerned.

Crystal, of Michael Crystal and Associates of Ottawa, is currently representing plaintiffs in a $5.6 million class action lawsuit against the Peterborough Regional Health Centre in regards to privacy issues.

Seven Peterborough Regional Health Centre employees were fired for accessing patient records when they were not entitled to view them.

Crystal told he was approached about the SAH privacy breach by one affected patient in April, and that number quickly grew to 25.

“It’s yet to be determined if there’s going to be a class action lawsuit but clearly there is widespread interest in that and certainly it is clear there is a very defined group of people who were advised their records were accessed unlawfully.”

“There are many similarities between this case and the Peterborough case,” Crystal said.

“People were very patient and very interested, with very thoughtful questions,” Crystal said of Tuesday evening’s information session.

“They are concerned…these people are very troubled.”

“They wonder why would anyone want to know about their records, they wonder ‘does someone know my health card number,’ the anxiety it creates is open-ended and very troubling,” Crystal said.

“I think the hospital has an obligation to patients to give them some peace of mind and they should be providing letters with complete information as to what exactly was accessed, what was seen on the computer screen, in an information package sent to them…that’s my point of view.”

Crystal said he has not been in contact with SAH.

Crystal said he can be contacted by SAH patients with questions and concerns at 1-855-594-5490.

Previous coverage of this story:

Breach of privacy leaves patient's family distraught

Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
MYPOINT 5/14/2014 9:31:22 AM Report

is as follows ...

The fired person ( still unknown at this time ) was fired because he/she viewed files they were not supposed to view.
This did not happen once ( which could have been maybe excused as some sort of accidental opening of a wrong file etc. ), it happened numerous times.
SAH took their time before disclosing this breach of privacy to those affected by same.
Contacting a lawyer in regards to this serious situation is the normal thing to do and I am quite sure that most would agree that they would do the same if this happened to them.

The above are agreed upon 'facts' which could be used in any legal proceeding as far as I am concerned. What, if anything, that will happen with this case will be something most of us will be keeping a close eye on. Personally, although my spouse works at the SAH, I have absolutely no faith whatsoever in that institution at all. Gagnon is not doing his job effectively when this sort of thing happens under his watch and it takes years for this information to become public.

As always, your views may differ :)
Berian 5/14/2014 10:23:29 AM Report

Any employee at the hospital should be allowed to view records of any patient at the hospital. This is part of working as a team and I am sure when they were hired they had to sign confidentiality agreements.
Me Myself an I 5/14/2014 10:24:46 AM Report

What exactly was this person looking for?

Were they just simply nosy?

Were they getting kickbacks from insurance companies, lawyers or employers to access the records to see if the person was actually sic?

frnlak 5/14/2014 10:54:48 AM Report

I see 90 people looking for free money!
Berian 5/14/2014 10:57:30 AM Report

or maybe they were just asked by doctors and nurses numerous times to look something up. Or maybe they had a patient on their floor that they wanted to better communicate with and if they knew what the patient had, then they could use best practices. At the end of the day, they were an employee of the Hospital and unless they made it public, which I don't remember reading they did, I'd say good initiative on them for going above and beyond the expectations of an ordinary hospital worker to get to know the patients.
Sammy1099 5/14/2014 11:06:42 AM Report

"I see 90 people looking for free money!"

I see a nosy person who violated an employment contract. The violation was then exacerbated by SAH's inability to realise the infraction and then do something about it in a timely manner.

Controlling who does what on a network is pretty basic, how this person was even able to access restricted files is baffling. Any access to sensitive files should be flagged and part of the admins job to review them daily.

You have the right to privacy, it clearly states that your medical records will only be shared with individuals actively involved in your care. This doesn’t mean every Tom, Dick and Harry on the SAH payroll. If you choose to wave that right fine, knock yourself out. I and most normal people expect our right to privacy to be respected.
Me Myself an I 5/14/2014 11:26:58 AM Report

@Berian what part of "inappropriately accessed" do you not get. If they were asked by a doctor or nurse then that would be different
MYPOINT 5/14/2014 11:30:26 AM Report

is as follows ...


You stated "Any employee at the hospital should be allowed to view records of any patient at the hospital. This is part of working as a team and I am sure when they were hired they had to sign confidentiality agreements".

Sadly you are totally missing the point. Under specific privacy guidelines, The only persons allowed to view your patient records are those people who are actively and directly involved with providing care to you.

Let me ask you something and let us see if your opinion changes. Would YOU want a part -time floor cleaner to be able to view your patient records? From your own statements above, you stated that ANY employee at the hospital should be allowed to view records of any patient at the hospital.

Maybe you are now going to change your statement to read 'any medical' personnel at the hospital? Again, are you actually in favor of any medical persons viewing your file even if they have no reason to do so?

Maybe it is time to change your idea of "any" employee working at the hospital being able to view your records to "only those giving your direct care" or words to that effect?

As always, your views may differ :)
asp 5/14/2014 11:47:02 AM Report

Great Job Sue them maybe they will start and take a real look at some of the staff in that hospital. This hospital always want our support but they can't even do their job right.
Yogi1 5/14/2014 11:54:05 AM Report

I see a "blood sucking" LAWYER enticing fellow suckers to join in a feast..!!
A Great White shark creating a feeding frenzie...!!
The SAH handled the situation. What harm was done by accessing info on a person whom has already passed away..??
Now the vultures are swarming for scraps.
andrews 5/14/2014 11:55:18 AM Report

Just looking for money..

Prove harm please..

The old days of paper files, people were probably nosy then too, but no method to track that

No harm, no foul.

Quick being so paranoid!!!!

Waiting to be jumped by the conspiracy theorists..
ranny 5/14/2014 11:55:46 AM Report

Going to a hospital and having your medical record checked or progress in condition. Don't like anyone to look at your health record, don't go to the hospital. People like these, will force people to not want to work in Sault Hospital and will complain why no one wants to work in this backward city.
Sammy1099 5/14/2014 12:22:08 PM Report

Wow the half-wits’ here are mind –boggling.

When you even work for say an engineering firm you sign contracts not to disclose private information. Information in private companies is also strictly controlled, access wise (NDA). Part of what you, as an employee are getting paid for is to follow the rules. The employee in question is accused of not following the rules. Therefore she suffers the consequences, just like any other workplace.

My mother used to work for HRDC and she had to sign agreements not to disclose client information. She too, did not have access to the whole network willy-nilly. She could only access what she needed, to do her job. What exactly is it that you people are having such a difficult time comprehending? I mean you have heard of the term "Doctor Patient confidentiality" haven't you?

I doubt the SAH would have difficulty filling positions. Any clerical staff who thinks they can do better in the private sector, good luck. Doctors and professional staff are also very well paid. We spend the most of developed countries per capita on health care. Guess where most of the money goes? Salaries.
LAWL 5/14/2014 12:24:09 PM Report

The American government looks into your files every single day. They also have full access to your medical files. Why not talk to a lawyer about that? Because they wont get a penny from that. Suing our hospital does nothing but cause issues for the whole community. Any of these people looking for a settlement should be ashamed of themselves. Notice the lawyer is not from the Sault? No lawyer from SSM would involve themselves or their practice in something so crooked. I can see if there was harm done and people had actual pain and suffering. I am sure the hospital has taken steps to improve their security. The main thing is for it not to happen again.
B Boy 5/14/2014 12:36:08 PM Report

@LAWL - I don't know of any local lawyers that have significant class proceedings experience, do you?

Which legal group represents the SAH, a local one?

When millions of dollars are at stake and a pretty significant breach of trust & security, one would definitely retain a legal firm of considerable experience, especially given that the litigants are responsible for all the defence costs if they lose.
Pakadeva 5/14/2014 12:41:02 PM Report

We don't have class action lawyers in the Soo, that's why they came from elsewhere.
Absolutely NO, you nor anyone else should have access to ANY patients file. Why would you need to look at a file of a person you are not DIRECTLY taking care of? Teamwork doesn't fall over all the floors, only the one(s) you are working on. That's the attitude that breaches the publics trust, in a nutshell.
I agree with the class WE ALL want every nosey staff in the hospital looking up our files? If these people win, hospital management will be more cautious about patient files. Any time I have been hospitalzed, I keep an eye on who is looking at my file when it's in my room, if I see someone who is not my nurse, or connected to my hospital stay, looking at my file I always say "excuse, you are NOT my nurse or caregiver, so you don't need to be reading my file". It doesn't take long for that to shake them up because they KNOW they have no business being into my files. Stand up for yourselves people, we are not a sheep herd.
Sammy1099 5/14/2014 12:45:46 PM Report

"Suing our hospital does nothing but cause issues for the whole community."

Really and if there is no threat of repercussions they can be relied upon to rectify the numerous failings in their process independently. Yea right! If you believe that I have some prime real estate to sell you in a swamp.

Threat of litigation is the only thing that keeps them in check. It’s up to SAH to determine the failing in their over site process. Then they can if possible, try to recover damages from the individual responsible for not performing their job correctly.

Your anger is misdirected it should be directed at SAH for their incompetence in handling the situation. If they are sued, employees in SAH who failed to perform their jobs should have their wages garnished to cover the damages awarded to the victims.
mallet 5/14/2014 12:52:38 PM Report

My Point...

Why would a part time cleaner have computer access?? As long as the only people who access patient files are technicians, nurses or doctors what is the harm?? When I worked for Inco all I could access the mainframe computer was for inputing my time and work orders, all the other systems had locks on them. If the SAH had this then it was the hospital who had allowed non medical staff to log in, and should be apologising if any records were stolen.. But just think how many people have access to your private life.. your bank, credit cards, credit bureau, revenue Canada, family doctor, grocery stores, box stores, the list today is pretty endless really, who cares if someone knows you have Cancer, heart desease or other ailment, perhaps an STD but then you add Algoma Public Health to the list...
Sammy1099 5/14/2014 1:05:46 PM Report


"But just think how many people have access to your private life.. your bank, credit cards, credit bureau, revenue Canada, family doctor, grocery stores, box stores, the list today is pretty endless really, "

You enter into an agreement with those companies for services rendered. Just like you have an agreement with your doctors and health care providers.

Sammy1099 5/14/2014 1:18:08 PM Report

Oh and mallet

I don't know what information you are giving your credit card companies but all I've given mine is my income and place of employment. I don't give my SIN for example. I've had the same 2 cards now for 20yrs.

It is also in banks and credit card companies interest to keep your information secure. If I have to spell out why I feel sorry for you. CRA is another obvious one they recently caused a stink by lossing flash drives for example.
Joe B 5/14/2014 1:19:13 PM Report

Is there a difference between our medical files and tax files.

With the recent concerns with Revenue Canada's computer system, maybe we should attempt a class action suit against the government!
Tag33&1/3rd 5/14/2014 3:28:13 PM Report

I see parking going up to $10. bucks!
The Batman 5/14/2014 4:47:01 PM Report

So many idiots here. Why are Soo Today comments so impossibly idiotic. Do any of you have an education? I assume not. It is a basic assumption from reading these comments that most of you have difficulties tying your shoelaces and turning on your computer. What don't you understand about privacy? How would you like it if everyone in the department knew you have AIDS. The sault is a very small community and gossip travels. You may want to think twice before you think there was no harm done in someone being nosey. All it takes is one nosey person to open their mouth and the next thing you know half the soo knows you have AIDS. GET A CLUE MORONS!!!!
Stugatzu 5/14/2014 5:31:24 PM Report

SAH's IT security policies are a joke to begin with! I know first hand, that employees are using Facebook while at work, while using the SAH's network to do so.

With that being said, it doesn't surprise me that SAH doesn't have any hardened security policies.

MYPOINT 5/14/2014 5:43:45 PM Report

is as follows ...

I shall not try to educate any of those people who post on here who can not understand the word "privacy" and what that actually means.

I wish all of the others who DO understand what "privacy" means the very best of luck trying to explain it to those who simply can not grasp what it means.

As always, your views may differ :)
young guy 5/14/2014 9:53:52 PM Report

I find nothing wrong with doctors, at the hospital, checking my medical history.

I shouldn't have to be asked, 'are you on any medication?'. Or, 'have you had this type of surgery before?', etc. Basically, anybody can lie about that.

I have always expected them to know the answers to those questions. But as we all now know, they aren't allowed to check your medical history. That being the case, there are probably many people taking two different types of medication that they aren't supposed to combine together.

Sure, they test your blood. But if you're taking a drug for psychological problems, and another for your physical symptoms, perhaps it might give you undesirable or even fatal side-effects.

Please, only respond to me if you're a doctor and actually know what you're talking about.
wandering 5/14/2014 10:14:18 PM Report

Everything should be kept confidential
yes they have all the right to sue them
It did happen in Montreal once and they did win
Anyone who need your Medical file need to make you sign a consent if you dint they can be charge
This hospital is a waste of money a big joke
Sammy1099 5/15/2014 8:32:17 AM Report

Young guy

You are showing your complete ignorance. Anybody who is involved with your healthcare should have access to your medical records. That is in fact what the privacy policy of the SAH says. If you are admitted the nurses on your ward would all know and have access to your files rightly so. They sign agreements though to not speak about your records outside of with individuals involved with your care. That’s not the problem here; it was somebody who had nothing to do with any of the patients in question. I think the last sentence is something you people can’t quite grasp.

No one has a problem with a Doctor or nurse or even a clerk looking at your file for a reason related your care. They all sign confidentiality agreements. The problem is the person in question had no reason professionally to look at them. That is why she has been dismissed.
Tag33&1/3rd 5/15/2014 12:44:11 PM Report

I know they lose records repeatedly! Therefore having to do the same tests over and over only to get lost in the shuffle again
iamtc 5/15/2014 1:11:58 PM Report

Could it be the nurse looking up patients health records for medications that are given,home meds they bring in that are kept in the med room not counted for and can be easily stolen and sold on the street
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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