08/05/2014 08:24 EDT | Updated 10/05/2014 05:59 EDT

Privacy breached for patients in Kamloops, B.C., when cabinet donated

KAMLOOPS, B.C. - Roughly 1,600 patients have had their privacy violated after a filing cabinet containing health records was returned to a Kamloops, B.C. hospital.

Nancy Serwo, acting administrator at Royal Inland Hospital, said the hospital donated the filing cabinet last year. On June 16, two boxes of medical records were returned to the institution.

The best estimate of when the filing cabinet was given away is last October, Serwo said, though she could not identify who received it.

A letter sent to 1,628 patients in July says no one asked for identification from the person who returned the boxes to the hospital, making it difficult to investigate the breach.

Interior Health Authority said it took a month for staff to review what happened, and to ensure appropriate action is taken to avoid a similar incident in the future.

“This was challenging given the circumstances involved in this case,” communications officer Michaela Swan said. “While that was ongoing, staff reviewed the more than 1,700 documents involved to identify all patients who had information in the documents.”

Swan said staff had to manually search each patient’s records for their contact information and to verify their age, as well as contact parents or guardians and care providers.

Serwo said she inspected the files, and is confident they had not been read.

Whoever returned them only identified that the files were medical records and needed to be returned, she said.

Still, patients whose privacy has been breached are advised to take precautions, such as reviewing their bank and credit card statements to ensure their personal information hasn't been used illegally.

Anyone with questions or needs more information are asked to contact Interior Health Authority.

(Kamloops This Week)