17 Jan 2015

DHB abortion release 'shocking' - women's group

5:08 pm on 17 January 2015

A district health board's accidental release of information about women who had had abortions is a shocking breach of privacy that will leave the women concerned sick and anxious a women's group says.

The Lakes District Health Board has apologised for data about 625 women being accidentally sent to a journalist.

It said coded data about 625 women who had had abortions between 2011 and 2013 was mistakenly released to a journalist by a junior staff member following an Official Information Act request.

The board said coded data containing no names but patients' National Health Index numbers, dates of birth and ethnicities was released by a staff member responding to an Official Information Act request.

But spokesperson for the Auckland Women's Health Council, Lynda Williams was appalled.

"It's an absolute terrible thing for women to be put through, it's just shocking. Often women have told very few people, and to have suddenly their privacy at risk - this is stuff that blows lives apart."

She said better systems are needed to prevent such breaches in future.

The DHB's chief executive Ron Dunham said the only way individual women could be identified would be if somebody entered the data into the National Health Index, which was accessible to health workers nationwide.

He said the DHB did not know who was affected, because of the way services were provided.

"They are referred to the termination of pregnancy service elsewhere, so we don't provide that service within Rotorua, so many of those women actually don't, their records are not held by Lakes District Health Board - so we don't even know who they are."

Mr Dunham said normal processes were not followed.

"All Information Act data going out of Lakes District Health Board comes across my desk, this was a junior staff member who did not follow process and procedure."

He said the board was working with the Health Ministry and the Privacy Commissioner and a full review would be carried out.

The DHB is urging anyone worried to call 0800 525 371, but said no one has done so yet.

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