17 Apr 2013

DHB disciplines staff over privacy breach

8:50 pm on 17 April 2013

The Auckland District Health Board has disciplined more than 30 staff members who accessed a patient's sensitive medical images.

A six-month investigation has found that 33 doctors, nurses and other staff breached the man's privacy after he turned up at Auckland City Hospital's emergency department in September last year with an eel trapped in his rectum.

DHB chief executive Ailsa Claire said in some cases, staff shared the records with others and may have leaked them to the media.

Ms Claire said the results of the investigation, which the board had shared with the patient, were disappointing and staff should not be accessing medical records for purely vicarious reasons.

She said as a result of the investigation, the DHB would ensure that its staff were well aware of its policy, including signing a confidentiality agreement annually, rather than just when staff start their job.

Ms Claire could not say what disciplinary action had been taken against each staff member, but it could range from a verbal warning to dismissal.

The Residents Doctors Association says there needs to be a better understanding of the difference between privacy breaches and clinical education.

Secretary Deborah Powell says the association wrote to the DHB during the investigation to ask if there could be a better way for doctors to look at cases for educational reasons.

Dr Powell says it did not receive a response, but hopes ways can eventually be found for junior doctors to learn from cases appropriately while making sure that patients are respected.