Disciplinary action is being taken after an unauthorized job shadow at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow, N.S. resulted in a significant privacy breach for dozens of patients.

A health-care professional at the hospital brought an outside health-care professional to the workplace on Aug. 24.

“The individual was in an unauthorized job shadowing with an individual here at the health authority,” says Duane MacInnis of the Pictou County Health Authority.

The outsider had access to electronic health records for 39 people – a violation of patient privacy.

After conducting an internal review, the health authority is contacting the patients to inform them of the privacy breach.

“We want to assure people, the 39 affected as well as the rest of the community, that again, we take the privacy issue very seriously,” says MacInnis.

Patient care was not affected in any way and the visiting professional told the health authority they recall nothing about the information that was viewed.

But that was little comfort to some community members, who said they were surprised to hear of the privacy breach.

“I’m surprised that they don’t have protocols that would stop that from happening in this hospital,” says Ray Docker. “I don’t think it’s right.”

“I think it’s pretty personal and it should be acted on,” says Harriet Mansour.

“It shouldn’t have been done without the proper authorization of the hospital,” says Mike Joudrey.

The health authority is not naming those involved, their field of work, or which department they were in, citing privacy concerns.

The worker who conducted the unauthorized job shadowing has been disciplined, but officials won’t say what penalty was issued.

They do say efforts will be made to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Dan MacIntosh