DHB acts to protect patient privacy

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 12:00 04/07/2013

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Patient privacy has been tightened at MidCentral District Health Board after four staff members were dismissed for inappropriately accessing files.

Figures released under an Official Information Act request to the health board revealed a clerical staff member inappropriately accessed a family member's information in 2011, and three nurses inappropriately accessed patient records last year. All staff members were subsequently dismissed.

Privacy breaches have been in the news this year, with disciplinary action taken against 33 Auckland City Hospital staff after they looked at details of a man who had an eel stuck in his lower abdomen.

Four South Island DHB staff were disciplined after they accessed cricketer Jesse Ryder's records when he was admitted to hospital following a late-night assault.

MidCentral District Health Board deputy chief executive Mike Grant said the health board took its obligations to protect the privacy of patient information seriously.

"It requires all staff members who have access to patient information to read and complete a comprehensive declaration of confidentiality," he said. "If a breach is identified, that will usually result in a finding of misconduct or serious misconduct and lead to disciplinary action, including dismissal."

Mr Grant said the board reported breaches to the appropriate authority when it was legally required or otherwise appropriate to do so.

"We have implemented a privacy awareness programme to reiterate confidentiality requirements and are upgrading our electronic records system, with patient privacy being an express and important factor."

Privacy has been an issue at Palmerston North Hospital in the past two years. Last month a kiosk computer in the regional cancer treatment department was shut down after a government audit found it left the hospital open to attack.

And in May an online database for maternity patients, to be launched in the region later this year, worried health board members.

Last year MidCentral was struck by several privacy breaches, including the mailing out of 133 letters to parents containing personal details of other people's children.

About the same time, Palmerston North woman Zelda McConachy was mailed other patients' mental health data after she applied to MidCentral to see her own files.

Editorial, P9

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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