A Red Deer library user was shocked recently to discover a list of Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre psychiatric patients and their diagnoses tucked inside a library book.
“My wife was picking up a bunch of books down there. I was taking them out of the bag she brought them in. One book had a piece of paper and it fell out,” said Patrick Wight, 51, about the information he found early last week between the pages of a novel borrowed from the downtown branch of the Red Deer Public Library.
“I thought that was awful strange. I looked at it — and oh my God — this is sensitive, private information here. I was mortified that something like that would even leave the hospital ward.”
What he found was a recent patient care list for 14 patients on Unit 34, one of two adult psychiatric units at the hospital. Diagnoses ranged from bipolar to depression to suicidal.
Red Deer doctors were listed beside patient names. The document did not have a date.
Handwritten notes, as if someone used it as a piece of scrap paper, were scrawled on the bottom and top of the sheet of paper.
Wight, of Red Deer, doesn’t want Alberta Health Services to sweep this breach of privacy under the rug. He wants someone to be held accountable.
As a heavy equipment salesman, Wight said he works with people’s private financial information all the time and he doesn’t use financial statements for bookmarks.
“Somebody really screwed up here.”
“I can’t even describe my emotions. It was a combination of shock, disgust, pity. I’m pretty sure the people listed on it wouldn’t want total strangers reading about their psychiatric problems.”
The patient care list has been returned to Alberta Health Services.
AHS chief privacy officer Mike Tolfree said AHS is taking this matter very seriously.
“It’s a very high priority. We’ve informed the Privacy Commissioner’s office about this and we certainly will be co-operating with any investigation they may open,” Tolfree said.
Until further investigation, he could not say how the document is used, whether it is allowed off the ward or if disciplinary action is required.
“It always depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. Our policy provides for a wide range of disciplinary measures.”