Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins is planning on doubling the fines for breaches of patients’ medical records, as well as making it easier to prosecute offenders, according to multiple Canadian news media reports.
Hoskins is proposing new legislation later this year that would up violations of patients' privacy to $100,000 for individuals and $500,000 for the hospital or organization. It would also scrap a rule requiring that prosecutions start within six months of the alleged privacy breach, which Hoskins called "a serious barrier" to prosecuting offenders, according to a report from CTV News.
According to reports, the incidents of healthcare workers inappropriately accessing patients' private records at hospitals in Peterborough, Sault Ste. Marie, Brantford, Toronto, Sarnia and elsewhere—in addition to workers at several hospitals accessing the health records of former Toronto mayor Rob Ford—got the attention of Hoskins. "It is often the high-profile cases and individuals by the nature of the breach that may get more attention," said Hoskins in the CTV News report. "I don't want to speak to the specifics that are being investigated and may be prosecuted."
The proposed bill would also make it mandatory to report privacy breaches to Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner and to the relevant regulatory colleges that govern health-care professionals. The privacy commissioner can't launch prosecutions, and can only refer the cases to the Attorney General, according to reports. The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled earlier this year that patients can sue hospitals if their privacy was breached.