A woman was an employee at a hospital. She was voluntarily admitted for a short time as a mental health inpatient. The hospital sent her discharge summary notes to her home address. The back of the envelope was stamped 'Mental Health Inpatient Unit'. The woman was distressed by this incident. She was flatting, and any of the flatmates could collect letters from the mailbox. Her flatmates had previously not been aware that she lived with a mental illness.
As a staff member at the hospital, she was also aware that the hospital's policy was to delete the name of the department from outgoing mail, so that the envelope did not disclose the patient's health condition.
The woman initially complained to the hospital, which had agreed that her complaint was justified. However, they could not agree on an appropriate outcome. The woman believed that financial compensation was appropriate, given the distress that the incident had caused her.
The complaint raised issues under rule 5 of the Health Information Privacy Code 1994, which states:
A health agency that holds health information must ensure:
(a) that the information is protected, by such security safeguards as it is reasonable in the circumstances to take, against:
(ii) access, use, modification, or disclosure, except with the authority of the agency; and
(iii) other misuse...
The hospital accepted that stamping the envelope in this way breached rule 5 of the Code. It agreed to make a financial settlement to the woman, to compensate her for the harm that its actions had caused.
The matter was settled on this basis and we closed the file.
Storage and security - hospital - envelope stamped with name of department - indication of health condition - settlement - Health Information Privacy Code 1994, rule 5