Patient privacy breach: Dubbo medical letters found in trash

Patients in Dubbo have had their privacy breached after more than 1000 private records were found dumped in a Sydney bin. 

Health Minister Brad Hazzard speaks to media about patient correspondence discovered in a bin.  Photo: Nick Moir

Health Minister Brad Hazzard speaks to media about patient correspondence discovered in a bin. Photo: Nick Moir

Follow-up letters from patients of Dubbo Hospital Cancer Centre were among the letters discovered in a bin outside an apartment block in Ashfield on April 11.

The breach involves patients from public and private hospitals. 

A total of 768 outpatients from Dubbo Hospital Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, and Gosford Hospital and Cancer Centre were named in the letters. 

Also located were more than 700 documents related to an estimated 300 patients from six private NSW clinics. 

An independent review will investigate how NSW Health specialists communicate with GPs following the massive privacy breach. 

On Friday Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant reassured patients that clinicians at the affected facilities had reviewed the correspondence and taken any necessary action. 

Oncologists from Dubbo Hospital Cancer Centre have since contacted eight patients to “bring forward some visits and also to facilitate some referrals”. 

“It is unacceptable that there are delays in communication because we know that this communication is an important component of keeping the clinical team up to date,” Dr Chant said. 

“So for that, I’m very sorry.” 

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the documents had been discarded by a sub-contractor for medical communications company Global Transcription Services (GTS). 

He has ordered a complete independent review by KPMG of the transcription services used by public health facilities in the state’s 15 different health districts, given there are 13 million outpatients across NSW each year.

“There might be issues why we have to continue with envelopes and hard copy, although I must say I am not particularly attracted to that as the health minister in the current circumstances,” he said.

Opposition spokesperson Walt Secord said the review of the “bungle” should be expanded to include private facilities, and requested any results and recommendations to be made public. 

“Medical records are deeply personal. They contain private information about your medical history that you would share with very few people,” he said.