Apology for X-ray mailout botch-up

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Last updated 05:00 21/06/2014

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Private details of hundreds of medical patients have been sent to the wrong people after a fault with NZ Post's digital mailing service.

Christchurch Radiology Group has had to apologise to 800 of its clients who were affected by the "horrible" botch-up about a fortnight ago, the company's chief executive Lance Lawler told The Press this week.

Letters containing patient appointment details, invoices and receipts were sent to the wrong people on June 4 and 5, Lawler said.

"There was no specific medical information about what's wrong with them but it does say whether they've had a scan or an X-ray."

NZ Post spokesman Richard Trow said a fault had been identified with its digital mailing service. Two different sets of data got "out of sequence" and wrong addresses were put on letters.

Christchurch Radiology Group was the only company affected by the incident, which was being treated "extremely seriously", Trow said.

"We have to take responsibility for it. It's been an absolute high priority to get to the bottom of this."

The fault had been fixed and the system would be tested to make sure it did not happen again.

NZ Post was working hard to "rebuild trust with the customer", Trow said. Issues occurred from "time to time" but "I know this is the first time this has happened in this system", he said.

"No system is perfect."

Lawler said Christchurch Radiology Group was reviewing its use of the digital mailing service.

"We want to be reassured that we will not be exposing our patients to this kind of event again.

"Indications are that this was a random and unfortunate glitch that's been fixed."

The company had tried to contact all patients who had been affected, Lawler said.

The Privacy Commissioner, ACC, Southern Cross, Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) and the Ministry of Health had been notified of the privacy breach and affected patients had been offered a "personal apology", he said.

". . . it's just one of those horrible things that happens.

"Our staff are devastated by this event.

"This is the last thing we want to have happen to people we provide care for."

An Office of the Privacy Commissioner spokeswoman confirmed both NZ Post and Christchurch Radiology Group had notified the privacy commissioner of the breach.

She was not aware of any complaints about the incident.

In March, CDHB criticised NZ Post, and also its mail contractor DX Mail, after patients contacted the board with concerns about mail delays. Many patients had received hospital letters after their scheduled appointment.

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Christchurch Radiology Group is a private service that provides care to patients in Christchurch, the West Coast, Tasman and Blenheim.

Patients with concerns can contact a hotline set up by Christchurch Radiology Group on 0800 274 000.

- The Press

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