Press Releases

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

WRHA investigating breach of personal health information

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) sent letters to patients this week to notify them that a paper billings file went missing from a diagnostic imaging office earlier this month. The file was stored in a locked room at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg in an area with swipe card access only. Patient information available in the file is limited and the WRHA does not believe the information will be exploited.

"We take our responsibility toward patient privacy very seriously," said Réal Cloutier, vice-president and chief operating officer of the WRHA. "We are working with an external security company and Winnipeg Police Services to determine what happened and making every effort to recover the file."

The WRHA has reason to believe the file was taken. It was kept in a secured room and there is no evidence of forced entry into that area. Out of an abundance of caution, it is important to advise the public and to ensure anyone affected is aware. Because of the limited information available in the file it is unlikely the information could be used for malicious purposes.

The billing information was related to diagnostic imaging procedures and could indicate where, on the body, a procedure or scan was done. In all, information in the file is limited to:

  • Patient name,
  • The patient's date of birth,
  • Type of test (e.g. CT scan),
  • Exam name (e.g. chest or abdomen biopsy) and
  • Information specific to the hospital (reference number for the medical chart, physician information and examination room number).

Anyone who receives a letter from the WRHA about this breach should continue to monitor their financial statements as they normally would. At this point, there is no indication that patients need to take any further action to guard their personal health information as a result of this breach.

The WRHA takes the responsibility of trustee of personal health information very seriously and has engaged in two internal investigations, both security and human resources, as well as hiring an external security firm and working with Winnipeg Police Services to review the incident. Since the file was reported missing additional security measures have also been put in place to protect existing files.

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The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority acknowledges that it provides health services in facilities located in Treaty One and Treaty Five territories, the homelands of the Métis Nation and the original lands of the Inuit people. The WRHA respects and acknowledges harms and mistakes, and we dedicate ourselves to collaborate in partnership with First Nation, Métis and Inuit people in the spirit of reconciliation.
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