County confirms resident, staff privacy breach at McFarland Home

(Gazette file photo)
JASON PARKS

STAFF WRITER

The Corporation of the County of Prince Edward has notified residents, Powers of Attorney, staff and Family Council of H.J. McFarland Memorial Home about unauthorized access to personal information that may have resulted in a privacy breach.

According to a letter obtained by the Gazette sent by Clerk Catalina Blumenberg addressed to residents of the municipally owned and operated long term care facility, the information included resident health information and employee records.

In the letter the County states it recently discovered a former employee at the home transferred work-related emails and documents containing confidential personal patient health as well as employee information from their work station and County email account to their personal computer and email account.

When contacted for comment as to why this transfer might have taken place, County of Prince Edward Mayor Steve Ferguson told the Gazette he wouldn’t speculate.

“I won’t speculate on the reason the emails and documents were transferred to a personal computer and email account. The former employee has advised us all of the information has now been deleted from the personal computer and none of it was forwarded or shared with other parties,” Ferguson said.

The Mayor explained all municipal employees are expected to uphold a commitment to adhering to the highest standards of privacy related to the keeping and handling of confidential information, as required by the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Personal Health Information Protection Act.

Ferguson also said the Municipality has informed the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, and have acted to contain the unauthorized access and notify affected individuals.

According to the Mayor, the County is conducting a review of internet use and privacy policies and examining staff training to determine what can be done to prevent this from happening again in the future.

“The results of this review will inform any further action that we take,” Ferguson told the Gazette.

The Mayor declined to comment on if this discovery was made while the person was still employed with the County, citing the situation as a “personnel matter.”