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Nancy Oliveira 0109728
Allegations and Plea
The College alleged that the Member accessed the personal health information of over 1300 clients without consent or authorization, and this constituted conduct that would reasonably be regarded as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional.
The Member admitted to the allegations set out and acknowledged that her conduct would be considered dishonourable and unprofessional; she did not admit that her conduct would be reasonably regarded as disgraceful. The College accepted this plea. The College and the Member jointly submitted an agreement to the following facts.
The Member worked in a Hospital. In March 2004, prior to being granted access to the Hospital’s electronic health system, the Member signed a confidentiality pledge. It indicated that she would only access the charts of clients as needed to carry out her professional role and her understanding that breaches of confidentiality would constitute professional misconduct. The Member was also provided with a manual with a section titled “Confidentiality and Security”, which further delineated her responsibilities regarding confidentiality and electronic health records. In 2004, the Hospital issued a policy titled “Privacy”, which the Member received or knew of. In 2004, the College issued a practice standard titled Confidentiality and Privacy—Personal Health Information, which was updated in 2009.
The Member accessed the electronic health records for hundreds of the approximately 1,300 clients alleged between 2004 and 2013, without consent or authorization. The Member was not part of the health care team for some of the clients, and did not have a professional purpose for accessing their personal health information. The Member accessed demographic information that contained personal health information, as well as more detailed health records. The Member engaged in a similar pattern of accessing records for clients not under her care between 2004 and 2013, when she was terminated.
The Panel found that the Member committed professional misconduct by failing to meet the standards of practice, and that the Member’s conduct would be regarded as dishonourable and unprofessional.
Submissions on Order
The College and the Member jointly sought an oral reprimand and a five-month suspension as well as terms, conditions, and limitations on the Member’s certificate of registration. The Member would be required to complete specified remediation activities in preparation for a series of meetings with a nursing expert. For a period of 18 months from the date the Member’s suspension ends, she would be required to advise the College of her employers, provide employers with a copy of the Panel’s decision and reasons, and only practise for an employer who agreed to advise the College if the Member breached the standards of practice of the profession.
The Panel accepted the joint submission as reasonable and in the public interest. The Member accepted responsibility for her actions and cooperated with the College by agreeing to the facts and proposed penalty. The Panel found that the penalty addressed the elements of general and specific deterrence, remediation, and public protection. In particular, a five-month suspension sends a clear and important message to the membership accessing personal health information without authorization will not be tolerated.