Suspended after unauthorised access

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A pharmacist who accessed the health records of multiple patients, including family members, has been reprimanded and told to pay $10,000

The Alberta College of Pharmacy has issued a statement about yet another Canadian pharmacist who went looking in patient information without any authorised purpose… including her own.

Shemina Juma looked at the electronic health records of 11 people, 20 times over 20 months, the College said in a media release.

She looked at the health information of a person identified as Patient A on three occasions in 2017, 2018 and 2019; and another person, Patient B, six times between September 2017 and March 2019.

She accessed the records of another seven people one time each; another person twice in 2018; and her own records, in 2018 and 2019.

Ms Juma has been a registered clinical pharmacist since 1998, and at the time of the conduct was employed by Alberta Health Services, practising at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary.

On November 2019, a complaint was made and AHS’ internal investigation found that there had been 20 instances of unauthorised access to health information.

However only one of the individuals had been a patient of the Alberta Children’s Hospital and Ms Juma had not been involved in his care, and had not provided him with pharmacy services.

She had not provided pharmacy services or been involved in the care of these other individuals.

Two of these people, including one person identified only as Patient F, were family members of hers.

Another five were members of another family she knew, and another three were not related to her.

She maintained that she did not use or disclose any of the health information she accessed except in the case of Patient F, when she provided this person with diagnostic information about themselves.

This was a family member of hers who had provided consent for the pharmacist to look at his information.

However her other relative had not given her consent to look in their records, and she had apologised after she told this person she had accessed the information.

Ms Juma’s employment at AHS was terminated and she became ineligible for further employment at AHS. She got another job as a pharmacist, but after three months disclosed the results of the College’s investigation to her new employer.

Several weeks later, this job was also terminated and she has been able to find temporary employment as a pharmacist since.

In accessing the information, the Hearing Tribunal found that “the pharmacist misused her authority as a health information custodian and pharmacist,” the College stated.

“Although there was no information to suggest the pharmacist disclosed the health information of the patients, the Hearing Tribunal found that the pharmacist’s conduct was unprofessional and warranted sanctions.

“The requirement for registrants to properly collect, use, disclose, and safeguard their patients’ health information, including their registration information, is foundational to the relationship between pharmacy professionals and patients.

“When health information is accessed and used for an unauthorized purpose, this relationship is eroded, as is the integrity of the profession.”

While Ms Juma had had no previous history of unprofessional conduct and the health information was not passed on (except in the case of Patient F, to Patient F), the Tribunal decided to impose “significant” penalties.

It ordered a reprimand, a payment of CAD$10,000 (AUD$10,165) towards the cost of the investigation and hearing, and that Ms Juma’s registration be suspended for three months – though only the first month is to be served, and the remainder to be held in abeyance subject to an ethics course being completed, and no further privacy concerns being found.

She was told to complete, at her cost, an ethics course within a year, and to disclose the decision to any pharmacy employer for two years.

She was also prohibited from being a licensee for two years.

Last month the AJP reported on the case of Stanislaus Soosai, who was fined CAD$5000 (AUD$5095.68) as well as a CAD$1000 (AUD$1019.41) victim fine surcharge.

Mr Soosai had accessed and used the health information of a person with whom he was in a vehicle accident, in an attempt to persuade this person from submitting an insurance claim for the vehicle accident.

And in September 2018, Nova Scotia pharmacist Robyn Keddy had inappropriately accessed the electronic health information of 46 individuals over two years.

In that case, Ms Keddy had spoken to her spouse and colleagues about her findings regarding medical history and attempted to fabricate reasons for the access.

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