Tania Dalton’s privacy not breached despite medical file being accessed

Netball New Zealand/YouTube
Friends and family share their memories of Tania Dalton at her memorial service today.

An Auckland City Hospital clinician who was not directly responsible for Tania Dalton’s care accessed the Silver Fern’s medical file in the days before her death.

However, an investigation into the suspected privacy breach has found the staff member had been authorised to access Dalton’s file.

Dalton was admitted to hospital on February 23 after collapsing during a social game of touch rugby.

Former Silver Fern Tania Dalton collapsed during a game of touch rugby earlier this year. She suffered a brain aneurysm ...

GETTY IMAGES
Former Silver Fern Tania Dalton collapsed during a game of touch rugby earlier this year. She suffered a brain aneurysm and later died in hospital.

The 45-year-old’s family said she suffered a ruptured internal carotid artery aneurysm – a brain aneurysm – during the game.

READ MORE:
 Auckland DHB investigating breach of Dalton’s privacy
 Tributes to former Silver Fern Tania Dalton, who has died aged 45
Tania Dalton farewelled at memorial service on Auckland’s North Shore

Her life support was turned off six days later on February 28.

Tania Dalton gets a big kiss from Husband Duane after a winning game in 2002.

BARRY HARCOURT
Tania Dalton gets a big kiss from Husband Duane after a winning game in 2002.

Earlier that day, Auckland DHB said it had become aware of a suspected breach of Dalton’s privacy.

“Auckland DHB takes patient confidentiality extremely seriously and we are investigating this in line with our usual practice,” a spokesperson said at the time.

Auckland District Health Board chief executive Ailsa Claire said the investigation had since concluded and one clinical staff member who was not directly responsible for Dalton’s care accessed her file during the sports star’s time in Auckland City Hospital.

Tania Dalton's life support was turned off after six days in Auckland Hospital.

KIM GILLESPIE/FAIRFAX NZ
Tania Dalton’s life support was turned off after six days in Auckland Hospital.

After going through the usual investigation process it became clear the staff member had been authorised to access the file, Claire said.

While there had been no breach of privacy on this occasion, Auckland DHB promoted awareness of patient privacy in a variety of ways, including training, audits of clinical records and requiring staff to sign a confidentiality agreement, she said.

Clinical staff were also governed by a professional code that stated only those directly responsible for a patient’s care was allowed to access their files.

Despite clear privacy codes, this is not the first time patient privacy has been an issue in New Zealand.

In 2013, four clinicians who breached patient confidentiality by accessing cricketer Jesse Ryder’s medical records faced disciplinary action.

An investigation by Canterbury DHB found there had been a total of seven breaches to Ryder’s X-ray records by staff not involved in his case.

And in 2012, 33 Auckland City Hospital staff were disciplined after looking up details about a man who had an eel stuck up his bottom.

BREACH OF PRIVACY

A clinician who is not directly involved in a patient’s case but accesses their health information, is in breach of The Health Information Privacy Code 1994.

The code applies to health information relating to identifiable individuals and applies to all agencies providing personal or public health or disability services.

Most clinicians’ contracts also have a clause that relates to confidentiality and protection of information obtained during their employment.

If a healthcare worker accesses the notes of a patient who they are not providing care to, they are likely to be in breach of their employment contract and possibly face disciplinary action from their employer.

Now most records are in electronic form and are accessed via the employer’s database. This makes it easier for employers to see who has accessed the patient’s clinical records, when they did so, and what they looked at.

 – Stuff