Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Inicdent: Ottawa medical info trashed and then dumped in driveway

It's bad enough that sensitive medical information was being thrown out instead of being shredded, but someone dropped the bag of "trash" on a Manotick man's driveway. But it gets worse ... this is the second time.

The Ottawa Sun is reporting in incident involving the medical waste and health information originating from Gamma-Dynacare in a suburb of Ottawa.

Ottawa Sun Online: NEWS - Patient info in trash: "Homeowner finds medical waste, including personal data, in his driveway for second time

A MANOTICK homeowner was shocked last week to find used medical supplies and private health information in a garbage bag dumped in his driveway.

Anthony Heembrock opened the bag Thursday to find out who'd dumped garbage on Rideau Bend Cres. for a second week in a row.

He says he found medical debris, including bloodied gauze and lab test forms with patients' names, addresses, phone and OHIP numbers.

"What if my animals or my kids got into this stuff?" Heembrock said. "What about patients' confidentiality?"

He's worried that kids and pets are at risk from handling medical waste and patients from identity theft or fraud if the information fell into the wrong hands.

Heembrock said the forms listed the Gamma-Dynacare Medical Laboratories, which shares a building with the Manotick Medical Centre. Gamma-Dynacare didn't return calls yesterday.

Dr. Ann Fillingham, a physician at the health centre, says the public was never at risk from the bag of garbage but how it disappeared is under investigation, she said.

The medical items Heembrock found, including urine specimen bottles, had never been used, she said. The bag did contain cotton balls that are taped to patients' arms after blood tests because patients throw them in the trash.

The clinic has secure disposal of needles and blood products and shreds all sensitive patient information, Fillingham said.


She said the records found were requisition forms from the lab, not medical centre patient records.

Someone must have grabbed the garbage in the few minutes between when it's collected from the building and put in a locked dumpster, Fillingham said. It's now locked up at all times.

"How the garbage got to where it got twice doesn't make sense," Fillingham said. "Something is going on. We're not letting it happen again."

Having health information turn up in the garbage could violate new health privacy legislation, said Bob Spence, spokesman for the province's information and privacy commissioner.

The Personal Health Information Protection Act requires health care workers to store, share and discard private information securely.

"Anyone who works in health would be encouraged to destroy health information rather than throwing it out in the trash," said Spence. "Once we obtain more information, we will be launching a privacy investigation into this."..."

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