More than 1,000 letters containing confidential personal and medical information from Gosford Hospital patients were found dumped in a communal bin at an Ashfield apartment block.
The confidential letters were dumped by a subcontracted employee of Global Transcription Services, a private company used by NSW Health to send letters.
Executive Director of the Central Coast Local Health District, Dr Andrew Montague, confirmed that the District was advised by Global Transcription Services that a number of the District’s follow up letters from specialists to referring general practitioners or other specialists had been found by a member of the public in a bin at an Ashfield apartment block.
“The correspondence mostly related to treatment progress reports following clinic attendances of 136 patients who had attended either Gosford Hospital’s Outpatients or the Central Coast Cancer Centre in December 2016, but there were also letters pertaining to patients of other hospitals and private clinics,” Dr Montague said.
“Global Transcription Services were contracted to provide some transcription, printing and postage services for Gosford Hospital’s Outpatients and the Central Coast Cancer Centre,” he continued.
“The District has ceased using their printing and postage services following this incident.
“The District acknowledges that this incident may raise concerns for patients of these services, but wants to reassure patients and their families that a review of the correspondence, conducted on Friday, April 14, by senior staff and clinicians in NSW Health, showed no evidence of a need for immediate clinical intervention or for individual patients to be contacted.
“The review by NSW Health did identify 16 letters relating to the District’s services requiring prompt attention.
“Clinicians from the District reviewed these letters and these patients’ medical records and found no significant issues with patient continuity of care.
“These clinicians also reviewed the remaining letters related to our services and also found no clinical concerns or compromised care.
“The District has forwarded the follow-up letters, with a cover letter addressing the delay, to the intended recipients to ensure the patients’ medical records are complete.
“Anyone with concerns regarding their care should contact the District’s Clinical Governance Unit,” Dr Montague said.
Shadow Minister for Health, Mr Walt Secord, labelled the incident a “sloppy and dangerous bungle” and said that it is a breach of patient privacy, the second for Gosford and Wyong Hospital patients this year, after medical records were found in the Gosford Hospital carpark in March.
“Another day, another problem in the NSW health and hospital system that lurches from crisis to crisis,” Mr Secord said.
“It is absolutely frightening that private medical records were left in rubbish bins in a Sydney apartment block.
“This just should not happen.
“Medical records are deeply personal.
“They contain private information about your medical history that you would share with very few people.
“It is extremely distressing for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment to find out that their personal medical details have been handled this way,” Mr Secord said.
Mr Secord said he wanted the proposed KPMG review into the processes of transcription services in NSW public health facilities expanded to include private health facilities.
Mr Secord said that for too long, the State Government had washed its hands of any responsibility in the private health system.
In addition, Mr Secord wanted the results and recommendations of the KPMG review to be made public.
Mr Secord said that the NSW Government had to guarantee that all public and private patients had been notified of the breach.
The Central Coast Local Health privacy breach track record stands at recorded 16 breaches in 2015/16 and more than 30 in 2014/15.
The 2014/15 data was reported by the District, but the 2015/16 data was not due to a change in reporting requirements.
Media statement, Apr 19
Walt Secord, Shadow Minister for Health
Media statement, Apr 26
Dr Andrew Montague, Central Coast Local Health District
Dilon Luke, Journalist