Someone posed as a health-care aide and worked as many as eight shifts in two weeks at St. Boniface Hospital before they were caught.
The bizarre incident triggered an internal investigation by the hospital, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Shared Health.
The "unauthorized person" worked at the hospital, including in the ER, between July 2 and July 17. They retrieved supplies and escorted patients to rooms, but had no access to controlled medications, the health authority said.
The person began a week-long training course to work as an uncertified health-care aide, but didn't complete the course, WRHA said.
The individual phoned the staffing office at St. Boniface Hospital and presented themselves as a newly hired uncertified health-care aide. They were wrongly scheduled to work one shift before their employment status was confirmed and they were informed they were not eligible to work, the WRHA stated.
The error was discovered after the individual worked their first shift, the health authority said. But the person kept showing up for work and seemed to know a lot about the hiring process, the hospital and the staff.
"The individual possessed seemingly deep knowledge of the facility, its units and managers. With this information, the individual was able to present themselves to screening and security as an employee and was admitted on multiple occasions," the health authority stated.
The person had never worked at the hospital and is no longer in the training program, WRHA spokesperson Scott Sime said in response to Free Press questions.
"We cannot explain how they had the level of knowledge they did of the hospital and staff."
Staff members spotted the individual, barred them from the hospital and called police. Police determined the person had "no ill will," and no charges are expected to be laid, the WRHA said.
"We cannot speak to this person’s motive, although they indicated clearly their desire to be a health care employee," Sime said.
He said they have no reason to believe anyone was put in danger; they haven't heard any complaints from patients or any concerns about the person's job performance in the hospital.
Uncertified health-care aides are supposed to help the certified health-care aides with duties such as dressing patients and taking them to the bathroom. They can get supplies and observe patients but they are under direct supervision from other staff at virtually all times, Sime said.
The individual was paid for the initial shift that was scheduled before the staffing office discovered the person hadn't been hired, a hospital spokesperson said.
The WRHA revealed the incident in a statement Thursday, in which it described the case as highly unusual and troubling.
"The circumstances of this incident — while highly unusual and isolated — are troubling, as it appears that gaps in process were allowed to occur. St. Boniface Hospital has taken the appropriate steps to ensure staff are aware of the incident and to reinforce that staff IDs are always visible and always presented upon entry.
"The WRHA confirmed that all health care sites in Winnipeg are aware of this issue and of our existing policies and requirements related to staff identification. We would like to remind both staff and patients that you have a right — and are encouraged — to ask any health care worker to view their formal identification at any time if it is not visible.
"Additionally, the WRHA is working with St. Boniface Hospital and Shared Health to conclude an investigation that will clearly identify the issues and gaps in policy, process, and practice. Corrective measures have been—and will continue to be—taken."
St. Boniface Hospital has apologized and encouraged patients who have any concerns about the incident to call its patient relations office at 204-237-2306.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.