Update: Medical Waste on James Bay Winter Road

Our Corporate Services Department, working closely with our Privacy Office and transportation vendor, has finished its investigation into how medical waste from Attawapiskat Hospital ended up on the James Bay Winter Road on March 11, 2019.

First, we are very sorry that this incident happened and want to thank the community members who brought their concerns to our attention so quickly.

Because of this incident we have introduced new rules for transporting medical waste that are even stricter than what is required by law to make sure an incident like this never happens again in our region.

All medical waste is now transported in sealed plastic drums/barrels that will not break open even if dropped or falling from a moving vehicle. This rule came into effect immediately following the incident.

We also thoroughly reviewed how the incident happened with our transportation vendor to make sure all safety requirements were and are being followed.

Review of events

  • On March 11, 2019, the transportation vendor performed the standard vehicle inspection prior to departure from Attawapiskat Hospital according to the Ministry of Transportation’s commercial vehicle safety requirements.
  • The vehicle was inspected again approximately halfway between Attawapiskat and Moosonee, and no issues with the vehicle could be seen.
  • A mechanical failure (a broken latch on the door of the cargo portion of the truck) happened between 50 and 80 km from Moosonee during the early evening of March 11, 2019, and medical waste fell off the truck onto the James Bay Winter Road.
  • The lost medical waste was retrieved over a period of approximately 24 hours and returned to Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA) facilities for proper disposal.  Several follow up trips on the winter road were made by WAHA staff and the transportation vendor. No other waste material was found.
  • We believe that only two bags of medical waste were damaged in such a way that personal health information may have been visible and that only two people not affiliated with WAHA could have seen exposed personal health information.  All loose items were collected and returned to a WAHA site within 30 minutes of being lost.
  • The loose medical waste included syringes, blood tubes and other medical materials.

Because it is very dangerous to handle and search through medical sharps, we are not able to review the loose medical waste to determine exactly what personal health information may have been exposed, and who the information belongs to. We contacted our medical waste disposal company and they were not able to safely perform this work either.

Personal Health Information breach

We are sharing the findings of our investigation to the entire region because we are unable to determine exactly whose personal health information may have been exposed. Medical waste from the Attawapiskat Hospital is removed once per year for disposal so the exposed personal health information could belong to anyone who received services from the Attawapiskat Hospital over the past 12 months from the date of the incident.

Based upon the types of medical items that were exposed, we believe that the exposed personal health information may have included name, date of birth, health insurance number or other identifier numbers.  As well, in the case of blood collection tubes, the colour of the blood collection tubes may have indicated the type of medical test performed.

Protecting patient privacy is of utmost importance to us and we believe we have taken the necessary steps to prevent a similar incident from happening.

Concerns

If you have further questions or concerns about this incident contact our Chief Privacy Officer, Janice Soltys at 705-336-2947 extension 4233 or janice.soltys@waha.ca.

We have reported this incident to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. To make a complaint to the Information and Privacy Commissioner contact:

Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario
2 Bloor Street East, Suite 1400
Toronto, ON M4W 1A8

P: 1-800-387-0073
E: info@ipc.on.ca

www.ipc.on.ca