Investigation into “Significant Privacy Breach” at Ontario Care Home

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Ontario's privacy commission has launched an investigation into a "significant privacy breach" at a long-term care home where 66 residents have died after contracting COVID-19.

Canada's long-term care minister Merilee Fullerton announced on Twitter on Saturday evening that an inquiry will be launched into the unauthorized release of private data belonging to residents of the Orchard Villa retirement community in the city of Pickering. 

"I’m learning of disturbing news out of Pickering’s Orchard Villa LTC home," said Fullerton. "There is a possibility of a significant privacy breach regarding individual resident personal health info."

According to Fullerton, the residential care home has informed the Information Privacy Commissioner Office "and other authorities as appropriate" that a data breach has occurred.  

The minister went on to say that the situation was being monitored closely by the government, which "takes personal privacy very seriously."

In a statement shared on Monday, Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish confirmed that his office is investigating a data breach at the 233-bed care home.

Jason Gay, the home’s executive director, confirmed that an internal investigation was conducted, but would not comment further regarding the breach.

“We can confirm there is a possibility of a privacy breach of personal health information,” wrote Gay in an email. “We have informed the privacy commissioner and an internal investigation has been conducted. We will not be commenting further at this time.”

According to the MPP for Pickering-Uxbridge, Peter Bethlenfalvy, Orchard Villa is taking action to notify residents and their families of the unauthorized release of information.

Orchard Villa is one of 36 residential care homes owned by Southbridge Care Homes, based in Cambridge, Ontario. Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in March, Orchard Villa has sadly lost 66 residents to the deadly virus and confirmed 200 cases. 

Families of Orchard Villa residents have criticized the care home for not sharing sufficient information regarding the outbreak of COVID-19 at the facility. A group led by resident family member June Morrison is now calling for an inquiry to be launched into practices at the care home.  

Morrison told Global News that Orchard Villa "should have gone to the ministry early on and asked for help."

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