Eel X-ray leak breached privacy

Last updated 16:38 03/10/2012

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Auckland City Hospital staff are under the microscope after a patient's privacy was breached when X-rays of an eel stuck up his bottom circulated the wards.

Auckland District Health Board chief executive officer Ailsa Claire said in a statement the hospital was taking the privacy breach "very seriously" and disciplinary action may be taken against staff.

The patient sought medical attention last month after the eel became lodged in his lower stomach.

Doctors at Auckland City Hospital had to surgically remove the eel, hospital sources said.

The X-ray of the eel stuck in the man was the topic of hospital gossip after it was emailed out, in what was a major breach of the patient's privacy.

Hospital sources told Auckland Now that staff who opened the email were among those being questioned.

It is not known yet whether the person who sent out the email initially has been found or whether anyone has been disciplined.

Claire, who only began with ADHB this week, said any breaches of privacy would be investigated and action taken where appropriate.

ADHB chairman Dr Lester Levy has also waded into the saga, telling the hospital any potential breach of patient privacy must be subject to a thorough and careful investigation.

If any breaches are confirmed, staff would face disciplinary action, Claire said.

"[Levy] has made it very clear that, as chairman, he will not tolerate this type of behaviour - he and I stand shoulder-to-shoulder on this issue," Claire said.

The investigation was focusing on the inappropriate accessing of clinical records and the possible leaking of information to the media.

Claire said the hospital expected the highest standards of professionalism from its staff.

"One of the fundamental responsibilities of working in a healthcare environment is showing respect for patients' right to privacy.

"I take that responsibility very seriously indeed and I expect our staff to work and act at all times with a level of professionalism that honours the trust our patients place in us."

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- Auckland Now

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