Department of Health and Social Services Confirms Privacy Breach

News Releases

YELLOWKNIFE (June 28, 2018) – The Department of Health and Social Services would like to inform residents of the Northwest Territories that, on May 9, 2018, a laptop that contained health information was stolen from a locked vehicle in the Ottawa area. The information was collected under the Public Health Act and contained patient names, health care card numbers, dates of birth, health diseases/conditions, and communities of residence. Although the device had strong password protection, the device was not encrypted.

The Department of Health and Social Services Chief Privacy Officer has concluded her initial investigation and determined that a privacy breach did occur since the data was unencrypted. To date, we have no evidence that the data has been accesses by an outside party. The Northwest Territories Information and Privacy Commissioner has been notified.

The Department of Health and Social Services has taken immediate steps to respond to the theft of the laptop and prevent any future breaches, including:

  • Working with the Department of Infrastructure to ensure all Health and Social Services laptops and electronic devices are encrypted;
  • Providing additional training sessions for staff and requiring all new employees to receive privacy training; and
  • Making sure that departmental policies are clear that encryption is required on all portable devices.


“I would like to apologize to our residents.  We must ensure that we are taking all necessary steps to protect the private health information of our residents.  I have directed our officials to ensure that patients’ personal health information is protected at all times.”
- Glen Abernethy, Minister of Health and Social Services

Media Contact

Damien Healy
Manager of Communications
Department of Health and Social Services
Government of the Northwest Territories
1-867-767-9052 ext. 49034