The complainant was admitted to a mental health unit for assessment after his wife reported that she had concerns about his mental state.
Prior to his detention, mental health staff carried out an initial assessment of the complainant's state of mental health. In doing this, they approached a doctor, the complainant's former employer, and his minister for information about him. All had recently been in contact with the complainant.
The complainant alleged that by these actions the health agency had breached the Health Information Privacy Code.
Rule 2(2)(d) of the Code provides that an agency does not have to collect information directly from the individual concerned if that is not reasonably practicable in the circumstances.
I established that the complainant had refused to talk to the staff prior to his admission at the mental health unit. It was only after this refusal that the third parties were approached. I was also satisfied that the information sought, the views of other people, could not have been obtained from the complainant. For these reasons I formed the opinion that it was not reasonably practicable to obtain the information directly from the complainant and therefore there was no breach of rule 2.
The complainant requested access to his file and was given an edited version of his information. The agency had withheld some information obtained from third parties on the grounds that the release of the information would be likely to endanger the safety of those people (Privacy Act 1993, s 27(1)(d)). He complained to me that he was entitled to all the information on file under rule 6 of the Code.
I was not satisfied that releasing this information would be likely to endanger their safety. The complainant was already aware of their identities. He also knew that, having taken this information into account with its own assessment, the agency had concluded he should be held in a hospital for further assessment. For these reasons, I formed the opinion that s 27(1)(d) did not provide the agency with a proper basis to withhold the information from the complainant.
The agency released all the information to the complainant and I discontinued my investigation.
Indexing terms: Collecting personal information - Health agency - Information collected from third parties for mental health assessment - Not practicable to obtain information from complainant - Health Information Privacy Code 1994, rule 2.
Access to personal information - Health agency - No danger to others if information disclosed to complainant - Privacy Act 1993, s 27(1)(d) - Health Information Privacy Code 1994, rule 6.