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Hospitals should not be able to quietly cover up privacy breaches and deal with them internally.

“They should be reported to an independent body to prevent it happening again,” he said.

Acknowledging other jurisdictions have been adjusting their health privacy laws, Beamish said he hoped Ontario would follow suit.

Regular notification of health-related breaches, he said, would allow the commission to identify trends, highlight areas of concern and ensure hospitals were doing all they could to prevent future violations from occurring.

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Under PHIPA, hospitals can investigate privacy breaches, notify affected patients and sack staff members without alerting the commission.

Many provinces modelled their health privacy laws on PHIPA, but there has been a move in other provinces to update such legislation, and Ontario is now lagging rather than leading.

Beamish told the Star Thursday that he discussed amending health privacy laws with senior Health Ministry staff recently.“The government knows how we feel and are well aware of our position. “We think we should come up to the level of other jurisdictions on this particular issue.”Privacy commissioners from across the country told the Star they have seen a worrying increase in health care professionals snooping into private medical records with wilful, malicious intent.

He did not provide further details and would not respond to questions about why Ontario had fallen behind other jurisdictions on the issue.

Back in 2004, the province brought into force one of the country’s first health information privacy laws: the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).

Mandatory reporting will “put some power back into the hands of citizens,” he said.

Saskatchewan Privacy Commissioner Ron Kruzeniski has only been in the role for six months and has already flagged this issue as a shortcoming in the provincial legislation.

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