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On her son's behalf, the complainant requested a copy of a video recording taken of her son while he was in hospital. The recording was made to assist with diagnosis. The complainant required this information in order to obtain an independent medical assessment of her son's condition. The respondent hospital told her that it was not possible to give her a copy of the recording because of the difficulty involved in editing out other patients who appeared on the tapes. The complainant was not satisfied with this response and made a complaint to me.

After I had commenced my investigation of this complaint but prior to the completion of it, the hospital, having edited the nine hour video recording to a 3 to 5 minute segment, erased the remainder of the tapes. The hospital told me that it was 'standard practice' to reuse tapes after editing the relevant information.

I expressed my serious concern about the destruction of information that was the subject of an access request under Rule 6 of the Health Information Privacy Code which I was investigating. I referred the hospital to section 127 of the Privacy Act which makes it an offence to hinder the Privacy Commissioner in the exercise of his powers under the Act.

I found that no-one other than the complainant's son had appeared on the original tapes.

I pointed out that rule 5 of the Health Information Privacy Code 1994 appeared relevant to this complaint. Rule 5(1)(a)(i) of the Code 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. Health information about the complainant's son had been lost.

Following discussions with my office the hospital offered to pay $5000 in settlement of the complaints. As the complainant was willing to accept this offer on behalf of her son, I discontinued my investigation.

October 1995

Storage and security - Health agency - Steps taken to protect personal information against loss - Health Information Privacy Code 1994, rule 5(1)(a)(i)

Access to personal information - Health agency - Request for video recording refused - Tapes erased during investigation - Hindering Privacy Commissioner in the exercise of his powers - Privacy Act 1993, s 127 - Health Information Privacy Code 1994, rule 6