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Liberals act to protect patient privacy

The State Liberals will introduce legislation to amend the Health Care Act 2008 to make it an offence for a person to improperly access or use personal information.

Currently, it is only an offence to disclose personal information. However, a patient’s privacy is also breached when a person accesses personal information for their own interest, without disclosing that information.

Under the changes proposed by the Liberals it would be a more serious act for the person to use information improperly accessed. Only last week there were reports of a private security guard accessing personal information and using it to make contact with a female former patient.

Section 93 of the Act currently says “a person engaged or formerly engaged in connection with the operation of this Act must not disclose personal information relating to a person obtained while so engaged except to the extent that he or she may be authorised or required to disclose that information …”. The offence carries a maximum penalty of $10 000.

“The Weatherill Government’s response to the patient record scandal plaguing South Australia’s health system is completely inadequate,” said Shadow Minister for Health Stephen Wade.

“The Labor Government promises to tell us four times a year how many people have been disciplined for breaches and sack people inappropriately accessing patient notes.

“This totally inadequate response ignores the fact that our hospitals employ hundreds of workers not subject to public service disciplinary processes, such as agency nurses and contracted private security guards.

“The Liberal bill would apply to all people employed in our hospitals.

“Initially, Minister Snelling tried desperately to reassure South Australians that breaches of patient’s records are very rare.

But his credibility has been destroyed by revelations that there have been at least two dozen breaches in the last year.

“Breaches could be much more prevalent – the Minister’s stubborn refusal to give any details about any proactive strategies it uses to detect breaches fuels fears that the Government has a don’t look, don’t find approach.

“The Weatherill Labor Government must support this legislation when it comes before the Parliament.

“To fail to do so would show that Labor puts a low value on the privacy of South Australians.

“If you are admitted to hospital, you have the right to have your personal information kept private.

“The Weatherill Government has shown itself to be secretive and evasive over this issue, but the privacy of patient records must be their priority.”