03/05/2014 18:38 EST | Updated 05/05/2014 05:59 EDT

Laptop theft exposes thousands of hospital records

Medical records for thousands of patients at Etobicoke General Hospital could be in the wrong hands following the theft of a laptop. 

CBC News has learned the personal details of 5,500 patients — including names, dates of birth and diagnostic reports — were on a laptop that was stolen in mid-January from a lab used to test brain activity. 

The lab was locked but the laptop was not password-protected — contrary to hospital policy according to Ann Ford, chief privacy officer for William Osler Health System. 

"We have a policy for protection and in this instance it just was not protected," said Ford. 

The laptop had information on patients who were tested between January 2011 and 2014. The hospital informed patients of the theft over the last two weeks. 

There is a risk the information could be used for illegal purposes such as identity theft, but hospital administrators say there is little patients can do. 

"We think that there's no further action they need to take," said Ford. "But, however, if they feel comfortable contacting their financial institution we leave that up to them."

The hospital has since beefed up its security. All laptops are now secured by cable locks. Toronto police say the case is still open.