Alberta’s health minister has asked for an official investigation into a stolen laptop that contains the unencrypted personal information -- including health card numbers -- of some 620,000 residents.

Fred Horne said in a statement that he has contacted the provincial information privacy commissioner to request a probe under the Health Information Act “with an aim to find out what happened, why health authorities have only just been informed, and what, if any, breaches of privacy legislation may have occurred.”

In addition to health card numbers, the laptop contained the patients’ names, dates of birth, and billing and diagnostic codes.

Horne said that the theft occurred last September 26, but was only brought to his attention on Tuesday in a letter from the vice president of Medicentres Family Health Care Clinics.

“Needless to say I’m extremely concerned to learn of this. I’m concerned from a number of standpoints, first at the delay that has occurred,” Horne told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

“On behalf of the citizens of this province I am, quite frankly, outraged that this would not have been reported to myself or my department sooner.”

Horne said when the theft was discovered on Oct. 1, it was immediately reported to Edmonton police and to the information privacy commissioner.

“The theft of personal health information of 620,000 of our fellow citizens is unacceptable in Alberta’s health care system in any circumstance,” Horne said. The company “will have many questions to answer with respect to this.”

Horne has also contacted both Alberta’s College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Alberta Medical Association so that they may take whatever steps they deem necessary.

“We will pursue this matter aggressively,” Horne told reporters.

Horne urged any resident who believes he or she may be affected by the theft to contact Medicentres Family Health Care Clinics.

He also said affected Albertans can contact his office if they want to file a formal complaint to the privacy commissioner.

Alberta's Opposition Leader Danielle Smith is also demanding answers.

 “Why is it that a single person at a private company can amass 620,000 pieces of information on individual patients -- all this information in one place, unencrypted and then have it stolen?” she said Wednesday.

“It’s remarkable to me that this has occurred.”

With a report from CTV Edmonton