9 Jul 2020

Ministry of Health silent on Michelle Boag's Covid-19 patient detail source claims

9:56 am on 9 July 2020

The Ministry of Health is refusing to confirm if it supplied the former National Party President Michelle Boag with a daily list of people infected with Covid-19 and their private information.

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Hamish Walker and Michelle Boag. Photo: RNZ & Boag Allan SvG

In a shocking series of events, Boag confessed to leaking the personal details of 18 people in Covid-19 managed isolation and quarantine to National MP Hamish Walker, who then leaked it to media.

At the start of the week Boag outed herself as Walker's source. Now she appears to have solved one of the remaining mysteries - last night, she revealed hers.

"I was sent it [the private patient information] legitimately by the Ministry of Health," Boag said.

She received a daily list of Covid-19 patients, and their personal details, as the acting chief executive of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT), Boag said, but added it was sent to her personal email.

Boag said she would then forward the list to "people in the organisation who needed that to do their work".

Boag couldn't explain why it was sent to her personal email, but suspected it was because she was only temporarily in the role of chief executive.

Despite receiving sensitive emails daily, Boag said she only ever shared one with Mr Walker.

Boag refused to explain why she did when asked by RNZ.

"Well I'm not going to go into that, but that is the subject obviously of the investigation," she said.

The Ministry of Health and government ministers declined to comment when contacted by RNZ last night.

But the minister in charge of managed isolation Megan Woods has already confirmed emergency services have been supplied the names of people infected with Covid-19 since the start of the government's response.

"That is an operational procedure that is standard and that's because if emergency services need to come into contact with someone who has tested Covid positive for whatever reason, be that an airlift or whatever, that they have that information and make sure their staff is protected," Woods said.

Regardless of how Boag obtained the information, sharing it with Walker has come with major consequences.

She immediately stood down from the top job at the ARHT and was later removed as a trustee.

Boag has also resigned from her National Party campaign roles.

Walker didn't escape unscathed either - the Clutha Southland MP won't be seeking re-election in September.

National leader Todd Muller said it was Walker's only option.

"As we have well traversed, the events of the last few days have not reflected, from my perspective, the appropriate National Party behaviour and values," Muller said.

Inquiry still going ahead

The minister for state services, Chris Hipkins, said the ongoing state services inquiry would look at how many people received the sensitive information from the Ministry of Health and whether or not it was appropriate they did.

"We do want to get to the bottom of exactly what happened here and I don't think the government should rely on what comments people make to the media to draw a line under it, we actually want a proper thorough investigation so that all of the facts can be put on the table so that everyone can be clear what happened," Hipkins said.

Before Boag and Walker publicly confessed, the inquiry led by Mike Heron QC was expected report back with answers by the end of July.

But the past 48 hours is likely to have make his job a lot easier - and faster.

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