The Five Biggest My Health Dramas Of The Week
Doctors, police and government at odds over privacy and access to health information.
It's been another week of bodyblows to the Federal Government's controversial My Health records system.
Leading doctors have publicly lost faith in the framework, while police and government are at odds over how sensitive information could be accessed.
The supposedly independent parliamentary library published, removed then substantially amended a research paper on how the My Health laws and policies work. General confusion and contradiction reigns over just exactly how it all works.
It's only week two of the opt-out period, and things are just totally upside down. Here are the five biggest My Health dramas of the week.
Police say they can get into records without a warrant
Section 70 of the My Health Records Act 2012 says system operators can legally disclose health information if it is "reasonably necessary" to prevent or investigate crimes, or for "the protection of public revenue" -- but little has been detailed about what circumstances that would apply.
The Australian Digital Health Agency has been in damage control over media reports stating health records could be accessed in criminal investigations, claiming it "has not and will not release any documents without a court/coronial or similar order" -- in contradiction to the actual law.
"Additionally, no other Government agencies have direct access to the My Health Record system, other than the system operator," the ADHA told ten daily.
However, police beg to differ.
"The mere investigation of a criminal offence or breach of law... are legitimate grounds for investigators to access your My Health record", the QLD Police Union told its members this week.
The boss of the Australian Police Federation, Mark Burgess, also said "the reality is that you don’t need a warrant".
Despite the ADHA and Hunt citing internal department policy outlining that a warrant or other order would be needed to access the information, police say that is not the case.
Parliamentary library piece
Adding further confusion to the situation, the federal parliamentary library -- which provides advice to provides services to politicians, their staff and the staff of parliamentary departments -- published a piece on its website advising that, by its interpretation of law, police could access My Health records without a warrant.
This was reported widely this week, but the article soon disappeared from the internet. That occurred after a complaint from the health department.
"The Department of Health contacted the Library raising concerns about potential omissions in the Flagpost on the My Health record," a spokesperson for the library told ten daily.
"The Library takes seriously its obligation to provide high quality information and analysis and I decided to take the post down while it is reviewed and also updated to reflect recent developments."
The article reappeared on Thursday night, heavily edited and missing several sections including a claim the My Health legislation "represents a significant reduction in the legal threshold for the release of private medical information to law enforcement."
(Compare the original and edited versions)
The library said in a note at the top of the edited article that changes had been made "to reflect developments since its original publication."
AMA presidents criticise rollout
Five presidents of the Australian Medical Association have called out the legislation around My Health. The Daily Telegraph reported Professor Kerryn Phelps, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, Dr David Brand, Dr Andrew Pesce and Professor Brad Frankum all called for the laws to be changed to restrict access and tighten privacy.
In an interview with the ABC, current Australian Medical Association president Dr Tony Bartone said a "wider communication strategy" would have been wise during the rollout of the plan.
Hunt promises change as RACGP raise criticisms too
The president-elect of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr Harry Nespolon, said in an open letter he was "very concerned regarding the privacy provisions in the My Health Record 2012 legislation".
"Confidentiality and the expectation of privacy is the cornerstone in the provision of healthcare," he wrote to members.
Nespolon claimed that, after discussions with Greg Hunt, the health minister had "agreed to work to satisfactorily strengthen the privacy provisions governing My Health Record in regards to the legislation in line with government policy and practice."
He also told News Corp he had opted out of the system.
The AMA said it had been assured privacy controls would be upheld.
In a statement to ten daily, Hunt's office confirmed he would meet with the GP organisation next week.
"The Minister has spoken with the presidents of the RACGP and AMA and will meet them next week to work constructively, regarding any concerns about the 2012 legislation," a spokesperson told ten daily.
Shorten wants rollout suspended
Labor leader Bill Shorten has even called for the whole system to be stopped entirely, after his party -- which passed the My Health laws in 2012 -- had initially wanted the three-month opt-out period extended.
"The Minister [Michael McCormack], who is now Deputy Prime Minister, had one job with the census and they managed to get that wrong, didn't they?" Shorten said.
"I actually think it would be smart of the Government to suspend the rollout of the My Health Record system until all of the privacy concerns are actually addressed."
However, deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek later clarified the party did not want to suspend it entirely, but that the opt out process should be revisited.
"There have been some calls that the reversing of the opt-out/opt-in position should be slowed down or suspended. I've got an e-Health record. I actually think it's a fantastic project. It will really save lives over time. What concerns me is the implementation by this Government," she told ABC radio.