The MLA for Yellowknife Centre wants to know what the government is doing to ensure patients’ medical information is kept private.

Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green

Julie Green said in 2015, investigations revealed a culture of “snooping” at the Inuvik Regional Hospital after patients’ medical records were inappropriately accessed. A similar privacy breach was examined in 2012.

The information and privacy commissioner found that there was a poor understanding of privacy in the clinic, poorly administered policies and procedures, poor supervision, and poor orientation for users of the electronic record system,” Green said Monday.

She said certain recommendations made by the commissioner in subsequent years were not acted upon.

Residents of the NWT must have confidence that this government is taking their right to privacy seriously,” said Green.

In her 2016-17 annual report, Elaine Keenan Bengts, the information and privacy commissioner, states the medical record-keeping system used in the territory does not have the functionality to ensure patients’ rights, guaranteed by the Health Information Act, are being met.

Specifically, she writes, it appears as though none of the medical record systems are capable of masking a patient’s file.

The act grants patients the right to bar one or more healthcare workers from accessing their records.

However Keenan Bengts found that these systems are not set up to block a given health care worker or clerical staffer from viewing a patient’s medical information.

Glen Abernethy, minister of Health and Social Services, said that staff are being trained on the information they are permitted to accesses under the Health Information Act.

He said that since 2015, more than 373 health care staff have sat in on health information training sessions.

Though Abernethy couldn’t say Monday what percentage of staff working for the territory’s health authorities have received privacy training, he confirmed that the training is mandatory and being rolled out “as we speak.”

Youth council proposed for NWT

The Canadian government employs a 26-person youth council that offers non-partisan advice to the prime minister on issues that matter to young people. The MLA for Kam Lake wants a similar body set up in Northwest Territories.

Young people “are the only stakeholders in the Northwest Territories who do not have a voice because they cannot vote,” Kieron Testart said Friday.

He said a territorial youth council would open up a direct channel through which young residents could connect with the members of the legislative assembly and the premier.

The minister of Education, Culture and Employment said young people have opportunities to engage in politics through their school councils, and that youth occupy seats on some Indigenous councils and in international youth groups.

“I have known some 18-year olds, 19-year olds who have run for seats in this House,” Alfred Moses told MLAs on Friday.

He said a territorial youth council is “something that we can definitely look at.”

Moses said his department would reach out to schools and Indigenous governments for input on the possibility of a youth council for NWT.

MLA asks if TRC Calls to Action are being answered

Cory Vanthuyne, the MLA for Yellowknife North, expressed concern Monday that the NWT is not doing enough to implement recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada aimed at provincial and territorial governments.

More than two and a half years ago, the commission released 94 “calls to action” – concrete steps governments, institutions and individuals can take to remedy the impacts of colonialism, racism and the residential school system in Canada, and to begin a national healing process.

The calls to action are aimed at, among other things, reducing the number of Indigenous children involved with the child welfare system, closing gaps in graduation rates among Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, addressing the over-representation of Indigenous men and women in jail, and creating equality.

Premier Bob McLeod said Monday that the government has “embraced” the recommendations of the TRC, particularly those that relate to education.

However, he said, “we have a ways to go” when it comes to improving educational outcomes for Indigenous students.

McLeod said that in 2015, 56 per cent of Indigenous students graduated high school compared with 67 per cent of non-Indigenous students. It is unclear if those rates have changed.

The premier said the government’s education renewal project is intended to help students get ahead by emphasizing culture and language education, and enhancing accountability in reports on students’ progress.

He believes the education system is improving because Indigenous students from NWT enrolled in post-secondary education now number in the hundreds.

Vanthuyne asked the premier Monday whether the GNWT has considered hosting events aimed at enhancing understanding among non-Indigenous residents of First Nations’ culture, history, treaties and contributions.

The premier said the territorial government has gone “above and beyond that,” by making National Aboriginal Day a stat holiday.

McLeod added that considering that more than 50 per cent of the territory’s population is Indigenous, “you can just drive down the road and participate in Aboriginal events that are put on by Aboriginal governments on a regular basis.”

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  1. Recently, I had to have a procedure at the hospital. Prior to the procedure, all people scheduled were interviewed in a room together. This is a small town and I knew one person in the room. I was able to overhear their medical history. I had to insist that I be interviewed privately. I was appalled at the lack of privacy. It seems that privacy is an afterthought in our medical system.