David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

DHB contrite after sending private records to Herald

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Auckland District Health Board staff have blundered by sending a journalist an envelope filled with personal clinical and other medical information and are now apologising to the two people involved.

It is the latest in a round of public-sector privacy errors, after clients' confidential details were found to be accessible at public Work and Income terminals around the country.

Other mistakes were the ACC's emailing of confidential information to a claimant and the Judicial Conduct Commission's sending private legal details to a Sunday newspaper.

The health board's secretary, Ian Bell, contacted the Herald after discovering it had made an error. He said the envelope was intended for the Office of the Ombudsman as part of an investigation into an Official Information Act (OIA) response.

The Ombudsman acts as the nation's keeper of secrets by ruling on what information can be released publicly and what must be kept private for reasons ranging from privacy to national security.

The health board had refused to supply medical details to a person who sought them through the OIA. After a complaint to the Ombudsman, it posted the personal records to prove they should be kept secret.

Instead of addressing the letter to Richard Fisher, of the Ombudsman's office, the letter was addressed to this reporter at the Herald.

Mr Bell asked that the letter be returned without being read - which the Herald did.

It was opened in front of a witness, viewed long enough to identify details described by Mr Bell, then sealed and returned by post.

Board spokesman Mark Fenwick said the contents of the envelope referred to the person who had sought the information and the person whose information was sought.

"ADHB clinical privacy staff are reviewing this information and intend on disclosing and apologising to the persons referred to in the letter intended for the Ombudsman but sent in error to the Herald."

He said the board would learn from the mistake and make changes as needed.

- NZ Herald

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