A class action suit against South West Health has been given the go-ahead by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
By Amy Woolvett
One of the largest medical privacy breaches in recent Canadian history could see almost 700 patients sue South West Health.
A Supreme Court judge has given the okay to proceed with a class action lawsuit over the health authority’s patient information leak.
In April 2012, South West Health learned that an employee at Roseway Hospital in Shelburne had been inappropriately accessing patient information.
In total, 707 patients were involved.
The authority began an investigation in April after learning an employee was possibly sifting through medical records without a valid reason.
In June of 2012, Wagner’s Law Firm based in Halifax filed a proposed class proceeding with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court on behalf of the patients who suffered a breach of their personal data.
“The mere fact that these sensitive and private records were so easily accessible for untoward purposes is a highly offensive invasion of privacy,” wrote the law firm in a statement.
Ray Wagner, who has been assigned the case, said that a breach of privacy seems to be a developing trend.
“This type of information in the wrong hands can lead to a lot of problems,” said Wagner. “This can cause a lot of anxiety for people…it becomes a big thing. (South West Health) has a legal requirement to keep this information protected.”
His next step is to send out notices to every patient affected by the breach and offering people a chance to opt out of the class action suit.
Wagner said he has received an overwhelming number of patients wanting to get on board.
“We had over 100 patients contact us so far,” he said.
Alicia Hemeon was one of the patients who received a letter informing her of her privacy being breached last year.
“I was quite devastated,” she said. “Even before I knew of the magnitude of people it affected.”
She is one of two people that will act as representatives for those of the 707 who want to proceed with the class action suit.
“I never thought in a million years something like this could happen,” said Hemeon. “Hopefully this will eliminate this from happening again.”