Kimberly Slater was livid when she learned her personal health information had been compromised by the B.C. Health Ministry.
Six years ago, the Lake Country health-care worker was one of 38,486 people involved in a door-to-door survey by Statistics Canada for its Canadian Community Health Survey.
The survey results were shared with the ministry as agreed, but contrary to ministry rules, staff there also shared it with an individual conducting drug research.
After an intense investigation, the ministry says it has found no evidence personal info was used for anything other than research.
"This lady, who shows up at my door that was so nice and gave me her government ID, says it will never go anywhere because there's five firewalls to protect it. I'm always out there to help and then I get this letter (from the ministry) last week," said Slater, who works at Kelowna General Hospital.
"I was fricking pissed off. All of this stuff is going down to the States. I've got my name, my social insurance number, I've got every medication, everything that was wrong with me since I was a kid on there. That's horrible," said Slater.
"It doesn't make sense to me. If they did something that was outside the rules and then they are saying it is not harmful, well then, why are they sending me this letter if it is not harmful? Whose hands is (the information) in? How can they say they don't believe the information has been used in a manner that could be harmful? That's a guess because you don't know where it is."
To top it off, the ministry letter containing her name and street address in Winfield had an account number printed on the side, telling anyone who opened it her social insurance number.
Slater wants to warn other people that even if someone provides assurances, don't share personal information. And she plans to follow that advice, including surveys at her work.
"They say it's all confidential. Bulls--- because they can go under your code on your computer and see exactly who filled it out."
In a recent news release, Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid admitted an investigation showed there were three specific instances where personal health data was inappropriately accessed, saved on portable storage devices, and shared with researchers and/or contractors without required permission and protocols being followed.
According to her, none of the information accessed included personal names, social insurance numbers or any financial information about individuals. It did include hospital admissions, discharges, medical history and medical services plan claims.
The Statistics Canada survey had information about individuals' medical, physical and sexual health as well as lifestyle.
"The ministry's investigation has concluded that there is minimal, if any, risk of inappropriate use of personal information," MacDiarmid said.
The Statistics Canada data stored on a USB stick was in a binary data format that requires specific software to decipher. In addition, the data was in a format that would make it difficult to match personal health numbers to identifiable individuals, according to the ministry.
In the second case, a USB stick with files on 19 types of health data, including personal health numbers, gender, age group, length of hospital stay and amounts spent on various types of health care for more than five million individuals, was provided to a ministry contractor.
In the third case, a USB stick with health-care data, including personal health numbers, diagnostic information on 262 chronic diseases or conditions and prescription history for certain drugs for 21,000 people, was shared with a researcher.
As a result, four ministry employees were fired, three were suspended without pay, two contractors had contracts and data access suspended, data-sharing with drug researchers was temporarily suspended, and the policy of awarding contracts to universities was tightened. An independent consultant also reviewed and enhanced the ministry's data security measures.
- NewsTop News
- SportsSports News
- BusinessYour Finance
- EntertainmentCelebs & Movies
- Kids Connection
- Auto Preview
- Wine Festival Guide
- Coupon Book
- Kelowna Medial Directory Guide
- Wine & Dine Guide
- Hockey Moms and Dads
- Health Mind and Body
- Kelowna Professional Directory
- Legacy Giving
- Call to Duty
- Home and Style
- Rotary Center
- Small Business
- Kelowna Gift Guide
- Westside Gift Guide
- Taste Okanagan
- ServicesNeed Help?
- News CrewInteract with The Daily Courier