September 20th, 2019
St. Mary’s General Hospital and Grand River Hospital use a shared fax system. On three days, July 30, 2019, August 27, 2019 and September 5, 2019, the fax system malfunctioned resulting in dictated patient reports, containing personal health information, being sent to a physician who was not the patient’s physician. Upon learning of the error, the hospitals immediately disabled all external fax communication, commenced an investigation and with the assistance of the fax system vendor, were able to identify and resolve the malfunction.
All of the affected faxes went to physicians who are bound by Ontario’s health information privacy law and who receive a copy of their patients’ hospital reports by fax. The hospitals have notified these physicians, as well as those who were the intended recipients of the faxes, of the malfunction. The former have been asked to securely destroy the faxes if they have not done so already, and the latter to confirm that they have received reports they were expecting on or around the three days on which the fax system malfunctioned. The hospitals have also reported the malfunction to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.
Protecting patient privacy is a priority at both St. Mary’s General Hospital and Grand River Hospital and we consider risks to privacy in connection with software and IT systems we use, and apply appropriate mitigation strategies. We regret any discomfort experienced by our patients as a result of this malfunction. Any questions or concerns should be directed to the hospitals at 519-749-4275.