With her daughter undergoing chemo treatments for cancer, it’s understandable that Holly Denine’s heart jumps up in her throat every time her phone rings and a 777 number appears.
This morning, it happened — but it wasn’t bad news about the health of six-year-old Nevaeh. Eastern Health managers were calling to let Holly know one of their employees had been fired after an internal investigation, for accessing Nevaeh’s medical files unlawfully.
Nevaeh is well-known in the media: diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at age four, she established a successful lemonade stand to raise money for other families dealing with pediatric cancer. In two years, her venture has raised more than $62,000.
Nevaeh is now being treated again, and at the time her medical files were accessed late last month she was an in-patient at the Janeway receiving chemo.
“I know Nevaeh is in out in the public with her lemonade stand and all that, but I have never once portrayed her as a victim. It’s always been positive, thumbs-up, look how well she is doing. To think someone would invade her privacy like that upsets me. I’m really in shock. I don’t know what the person was hoping to achieve.”
Holly said Eastern Health managers informed her someone had gone through Nevaeh’s test results. It was red-flagged to the health authority right away, and after an investigation, was traced to someone who had no reason to be accessing the little girl’s medical information. Holly said she was told the employee was fired as of Wednesday.
When contacted by The Telegram for comment, an Eastern Health spokeswoman said a media release would be issued this afternoon.
Holly said what bothers her the most is whoever went through Nevaeh’s private information likely knows things her own family members don’t necessarily know.
“I don’t even let the doctors speak to me unless I’m alone,” Holly said. “There are things I don’t always share with all our family because I don’t want to worry them.”
Eastern Health has not given Holly the name of the person they terminated.
“Was this someone I know? Was it a stranger? I don’t know which is worse,” Holly said. “Not that knowing the name really changes anything.”
Holly said she doesn’t blame Eastern Health at all and is satisfied with the actions taken by the health authority.
“They did everything right,” she said.
Neveah is home from hospital now, but due to start her next round of chemo March 21. Holly said her health already seems as if it’s improving, and she’s as positive as ever.
Eastern Health has confirmed a clerk based in St. John's has been fired for accessing the health information of 25 patients.
The health authority says it is in the procees of contacting the patients affected. The privacy breach occurred over several months, and was discovered in late February as a result of a random audit conducted within the former employee's department.
"Eastern Health has a zero tolerance for any deliberate breach of patient privacy and/or the organization's privacy and confidentiality policies," said Eastern Health president and CEO David Diamond in a media release. "It is very disturbing when these breaches occur, given Eastern Health's clearly-stated and reinforced position on willful breaches; however, we assure the people serve that we assign top priority to our responsibility as a custodian of personal health information."
"On behalf of Eastern Health, I want to publicly apologize to the patients whose privacy has been breached," said Debbie Molloy, vice-president responsible for privacy.
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