Ryde Hospital has a significant privacy breach with medical records of sexual assault victim being given to another patient

August 23, 2018 |

Privacy breaches in the health industry are depressingly common.  Almost commonplace in hospitals.  The reasons are not hard to find; many access points to information from clip boards at a patients bed or in a rack at a counter to a click of a button at a computer accessed by many staff, a large number of staff and high turnover and a generally poor privacy culture by senior medical staff.   That is compounded by generally poor privacy protocols, inadequate training and an implied preference to be criticised for inevitable breaches rather than a root and branch change in policy and practice.  It helps not one bit that the State and Federal regulators are lackluster operators.

So it is not at all surprising to read a report, Sexual assault victim’s medical records given to wrong person, that at the Ryde Hospital a staff member handed over the medical records of a sexual assault victim to another patient. The story highlights the fairly standard down pat response that hospitals tend to use; investigating, human error and we are very sorry.  The likely consequences are minimal and the change to document handling is rarely comprehensive.  Wait until things die down and then business as usual.

The story provides:

Ryde Hospital is at the centre of a gross breach of privacy, after the medical records of a sexual assault victim were mistakenly handed to another patient.

A young woman was discharged from the hospital in Sydney’s North last week after presenting with a stomach bug.

When she returned home, she opened the documents provided by hospital staff and realised it was somebody else’s sensitive information. 

Ms Drew’s daughter was at hospital for a stomach bug when she was handed a sexual assault patients records.

Her mother Daphne Drew told 9NEWS they were “shocked” the highly personal details had mistakenly been handed out. 

“Name, address, telephone, contact details, why they were in hospital, who saw them – absolutely everything,” Ms Drew said. 

“It wasn’t a plain medical condition, so that is what really shocked us.” 

The medical records detailed the injuries that were sustained from a sexual assault.

Ms Drew was shocked when her daughter was handed someone else’s private records. (9news)It isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Another breach happened in Ashfield last year.

Ms Drew said she called Ryde Hospital to alert them to the mix-up but was told to “disregard” the papers. 

“(They said) don’t worry about them. That was the point where I felt that’s not right.” Ms Drew said. 

The latest breach has raised further questions about patient confidentiality in the NSW Health system. 

In April 2017, 700 patient records were found dumped in a garbage bin at an Ashfield apartment block. Two weeks ago more than 1000 documents were discovered dumped on the floor of a derelict building in Helensburgh. 

“When you go in for emergency treatment after a major incident you don’t want those records just willy-nilly being tossed about or given to the wrong person.” Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord said. 

Ryde Hospital has confirmed it has launched an investigation into the breach, and apologised to both patients involved. 

“The investigation will consider any changes needed to existing processes to prevent this happening again.” A spokesperson for the Northern Sydney Local Health District said.

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