CORNER BROOK Privacy breaches within the province’s health authorities had been an issue for Andrew Parsons long before he found himself among those personally affected.
Now the Liberal MHA for Burgeo-La Poile is more determined to get to the bottom of these breaches.
“If you have a personal connection to something, you’re bound to feel more strongly,” he said. “Being a part of it certainly gives you a different level of empathy ... you’re even more frustrated then and it’s a personal thing, too.”
As Liberal health critic Parsons spoke out when a breach in patient privacy at Western Health was made public earlier this month. A clerk with the health authority had inappropriately accessed the files of 1,043 patients.
Parsons said he thought the breach was absolutely ridiculous and never should have happened.
The MHA was on the road in his district when letters informing affected patients were sent out by Western Health.
On Aug. 11 he went into his office in Port aux Basques to catch up on some work and saw a letter from Western Health.
“It didn’t even hit me until I actually opened it,” he said of the contents. “And boom there it is.”
Parsons, like many of those who received letters, called the number given to ask some questions.
He found out his file was breached in January and has an idea of what was looked at.
“But it’s still a lot of unanswered questions,” he said.
The top ones being who and where were they employed.
“I understand the rational that two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because mine was breached doesn’t mean this person’s should be,” said Parsons of the identity of the clerk, who has been fired. “That’s still hard to swallow.”
He’s also not certain of how much information had been accessed, so he feels he’s left with an inherent mistrust and distrust.
And he’s wondering about the motivation. Was it random or because of his public profile?
Parsons said catching the breach at Western Health was not a result of the technology that is in place, it was because of a complaint.
“It was an absolute failure and it’s not good enough, and so the main concern now is moving forward what are you doing to make sure it doesn’t take place.”
He said the answer may lie in the combination of technology and human oversight.
“You’ve got to police technology and police the person.”
The breach at Western Health is already the focus of one lawsuit against the health authority and at least one other is in the works.
For right now, Parsons doesn’t intend to pursue legal action, but he has made representation to the province’s privacy commissioner on the issue.
In the meantime, his plan is to follow up on the situation and continue to hold the government accountable for what it’s doing to prevent this in the future.