Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
On her son's behalf, the complainant requested a copy of a video recording taken of him while he was in hospital, made to assist with diagnosis. She required the video in order to obtain an independent medical assessment of his condition. The respondent hospital refused to give her a copy because of the difficulty involved in editing out other patients who appeared on the tapes.
After the Commissioner commenced investigation of her complaint but prior to completion of the investigation, the hospital, having edited the nine-hour video to a three to five minute segment, erased the remainder of the tapes. The hospital said it was 'standard practice' to reuse tapes after editing the relevant information. The Commissioner expressed serious concern about the destruction of information that was the subject of an access request under r 6 of the Health Information Privacy Code 1994 which I was investigating, and referred the hospital to s 127 Privacy Act 1993 which makes it an offence to hinder the Privacy Commissioner in the exercise of his powers under the Act.
The Commissioner found that no-one other than the complainant's son had appeared on the original tapes. As health information about her son had been lost, the Commissioner proceeded to investigate a possible breach of r 5(1)(a)(i) of the Code, which requires a health agency to ensure that health information is protected, by such security safeguards as it is reasonable in the circumstances to take, against loss.
The hospital then settled the complaint for payment of $5000 to the complainant, and the Commissioner discontinued the investigation.
Edited from the Commissioner's Case Notes.