Nurse's snooping 'flagrant' breach

Last updated 05:00 30/05/2014

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A nurse who snooped through multiple patient files has "destroyed" the family of one of her victims, a disciplinary hearing has heard.

It is alleged the nurse, referred to in documents as "Mrs L", breached privacy by accessing electronic clinical records without authority.

Mrs L admitted the charge at a Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal hearing yesterday, saying she knew it was wrong.

A colleague of Mrs L had his records, as well as those of some members of his family, accessed by her.

"She accessed my laboratory and radiology results several times. She had no reason to be doing that. It was clearly a flagrant breach of my privacy and to this day I am staggered that she did this," the man said.

Mrs L would have understood exactly what the results meant, which was particularly distressing, given they were personal, he said.

"This has had a major impact on my life. I can't understand what would drive an individual to go to these lengths. She has destroyed a family."

Professional Conduct Committee lawyer Matthew McClelland told the tribunal that patient information was confidential and should be accessed only when required for that patient's healthcare.

"It is submitted that Mrs L's prolonged and multiple accessing of the records of nine separate patients who were not under her care is a very serious and significant breach of her professional obligations," he said.

McClelland said she disclosed her actions to a senior staff member because she was worried someone, namely one of her colleagues whose records she had accessed, would find out.

Following this, the relevant district health board conducted an investigation and Mrs L's employment was terminated.

Tribunal chairwoman Maria Dew said yesterday that the behaviour amounted to professional misconduct.

A woman, who has name suppression, said discovering her laboratory and radiology records had been accessed eight times left her feeling "very exposed".

"I'm in disbelief. I have never even met Mrs L," she said.

"I have lost faith in the ability of the health system to protect my privacy."

Mrs L expressed her "sincere and deep regret" for her actions.

"I acknowledge my conduct has caused harm and distress and I am truly sorry. I accept that I had no right to access the records," she said.

"I'm devastated that after 40 years of nursing I have put myself in this predicament."

The tribunal will deliver its penalty today.

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