A MASSIVE privacy bungle is plaguing NSW Health this morning after revelations more than 700 letters containing confidential patient information were dumped in a residential bin.
The outpatient letters were to be sent between GPs and public hospitals and private medical centres.
But a woman subcontracted by a private company employed by NSW Health to send the letters dumped them in a communal bin at a residential apartment block in Ashfield.
She had them at her home to post them but dumped them in a bin instead.
The letters related to 768 public patients as well as over 700 letters referring to private patients.
Some letters were duplicates.
The letters were dated in December and to be sent out in January.
The letters were found by a resident of the apartments on April 11 and reported to police.
NSW Health began investigating last week.
The letters were linked to public hospitals in Royal North Shore, Gosford and Dubbo as well as six private facilities.
The woman who dumped the letters was suffering health problems.
The matter has been referred for an external review.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said an investigation had not found any patient had been harmed by the letter bungle but there was the "possibility" of treatment being delayed.
"I've direct the department to do a full independent review...I want to be satisfied we are doing everything to reduce human error," he said.
Opposition Health spokesman Walt Secord has labelled the privacy breach "sloppy and dangerous".
He called for the external review, which is to be conducted by KPMG, to be widened to include private health facilties.
"Medical records are deeply personal. They contain private information about your medical history that you would share with very few people," he said.
"It is absolutely frightening that private medical records were left in rubbish bins in an Ashfield apartment block. This just should not happen."
The transcription service responsible for the bungle, Global Transcription Services, has stopped working with NSW Health.
The company was unable to provide an audit of their letters to confirm all had been sent and recorded.
The letters referred to Royal North Shore Outpatient Clinics, Gosford Hospital Outpatients and Cancer Centre, and Dubbo Hospital Cancer Centre.
The private clinics caught in the bungle include Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, Northern Cancer Institute, Sharp Neurology, Southside Cancer Care Centre, Strathfield Retina Clinic and The Woolcock Institute.
In Dubbo, eight patients had to be followed up to arrange appointments.
"This is clearly unacceptable, it is unacceptable there is delays in communication," Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said.
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