4 Aug 2016

All-staff email breached patient's family's privacy

3:49 pm on 4 August 2016

The Capital and Coast District Health Board (CCDHB) is resisting a call for its chief executive to resign over an all-staff email at the centre of a privacy complaint.

Wellington Hospital.

Wellington Hospital Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The complaint was laid by Lyn Copland, whose son, Samuel Fischer, died in Wellington Hospital's mental health unit in April 2015.

The district health board's chief executive, Debbie Chin, sent an email to the board's 3000 staff attacking the reputation of Mrs Copland.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has found the email breached Ms Copland's privacy on four counts.

The district health board's chair, Virginia Hope, said in a statement it agreed the email contained more information than necessary, and had apologised to the family.

"We have updated our policies and had them reviewed by the Privacy Commissioner to ensure this does not happen in future," Ms Hope said.

"However, I recognise that considerable complexities had to be taken account when making decisions on this matter. I appreciate the Privacy Commissioner's advice clarifying what is covered by a waiver from patients or their family to publicly disclose information."

But Ms Copland maintained the chief executive should resign for the error.

"For a DHB CEO such as Debbie Chin, sending an all-DHB staff email of incorrect statements - I don't know what the purpose of this email was. And she obviously had no medical ethics or consequences for her action. I think she needs to resign over this matter," Ms Copland said.

Ms Hope said notifying staff of imminent media coverage was standard practice so they could respond to any patient questions.

"Many are in frontline roles and are often questioned by patients and visitors about issues they've seen in the news. The email was sent for this purpose."

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