A man spent several night shifts caring for patients at Winnipeg's St. Boniface Hospital in July despite not actually being employed there, the regional health authority said.
The impersonator worked the shifts between July 2 and July 17, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said in a press release on Thursday.
Though the regional health authority did not specify the gender of the individual, CBC News has independently verified the imposter was a man.
Health-care aides perform various duties in hospitals and long-term care facilities, such as helping move patients, bathing and dressing them, and simple wound care.
No access to medications, health authority says
The man had registered for a health-care aide training program offered through Shared Health, the organization that co-ordinates health care in Manitoba, but didn't complete it.
Nevertheless, the man called the staffing office at St. Boniface Hospital, saying he was a newly hired health-care aide, and was subsequently scheduled for a shift at the hospital, said the news release from the health authority.
After he completed his first shift, the hospital's staffing office discovered the error and the man was told he wasn't eligible to work there or at any health-care site.
In spite of this, he continued to show up at the hospital, presenting himself to security as an employee. He was admitted on multiple occasions and worked as many as eight shifts, including in the emergency department, the release said.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said the individual had no access to medications during any of the time he was at the hospital. There is currently no indication any patients were injured as a result of this incident; the news release does not mention any harm to patients at the hospital.
Union, advocacy group shocked by breach
The union that represents health-care aides expressed incredulity that the impersonator was able to work multiple shifts before being discovered.
"For someone to be able to work eight days with nobody knowing that they're staff or not is just mind boggling. It's a breach that shouldn't have happened," said Debbie Boissonneault, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 204.
Laura Tamblyn Watts, president and CEO of seniors' advocacy organization CanAge, said she can't believe someone lacking credentials could slip into a hospital and interact with patients during a pandemic.
"This is a shocking reality of how porous our health-care security really is," she said in an interview from Prince Edward Island.
As a result of the incident, the hospital and health authority are conducting an investigation.
"Corrective measures have been — and will continue to be — taken," the release said.
Police have spoken to the individual and determined no ill will was intended, the health authority said, adding further action is not anticipated.
"St. Boniface Hospital deeply regrets this incident and extends sincere apologies to both its patients and its staff."
Boissonneault said the hospital should simply hire an adequate number of health-care aides.
"They should be having regular staff. They shouldn't have these uncertified [workers] coming from all over. They really need to beef up their staff so this doesn't happen."
A memo was sent to St. Boniface Hospital staff on July 19, two days after the man worked his last shift, reminding staff to always wear their photo identification badge while at work.
It goes on to say that staff shouldn't hesitate to stop someone they don't know from going into an unauthorized area.
"In the past, individuals have gained access to secure areas with card access by following someone in and into unauthorized areas because no one asked if they belonged in the area," the memo said.
Another memo sent a week later said security would be taking down the names of staff without their hospital ID badge and would be asking for photo ID.