The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said an internal audit has revealed that a pharmacist working at Grace Hospital inappropriately accessed the personal health information of 56 patients that were not being provided care by the pharmacist.

WRHA said as a result of the investigation the employee is no longer working with the health authority.

“Accessing, reviewing, or browsing through patient records out of curiosity is not permitted,” said Real Cloutier, vice-president and chief operating officer of the WRHA. “We take patient privacy and our role in safeguarding personal health information very seriously, and we appreciate how upsetting this can be for patients.”

The health authority said it has contacted and notified each of the 56 patients whose confidential information was accessed.

The charts accessed by the pharmacist included information such as patient addresses, prescriptions, lab results, immunizations and x-ray reports.

The health authority said it has forwarded the file on to the Manitoba ombudsman, who's responsible for investigating privacy breaches in the province.

“We could conclude that a prosecution is warranted. We then refer the matter to the Minister of Justice directly and the person, if found guilty, can be fined up to $50,000," said acting ombudsman Mel Holley.

He said it's still too early to determine if charges will be recommended in this case and the investigation is expected to take about six months.

The WRHA has also filed a complaint with the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba.

The college said it takes the matter seriously and it will be investigated by a complaints committee who have the power to escalate it to a discipline committee.

Possible disciplinary actions the college could take include suspending the pharmacist's licence or even revoking it permanently.