“It’s shocking and sickening,” was the description that one woman gave to the Mayo Advertiser this week when she spoke about her anger at the medical records of a family member being found in a bin in a housing estate in Ballina.
The notes from St Joseph’s District Hospital were found in a bin in a Ballina estate by a litter warden and returned to the hospital, she explained. “We got a letter from the HSE last Monday to tell us that my aunt’s records were found in a bin in an estate by a litter warden in Ballina. That’s just disgraceful. There is no reason in the world for something like this to happen, this happened in April and unfortunately my aunt has died since.”
She said the HSE has apologised to her family but contended that this is not good enough. “They did apologise, but that’s far from good enough,” she said. “You go into hospital to be treated because you’re sick and ill, you don’t go in and expect that someone could come along and find notes about you in a bin. The notes had my aunt’s name on them and her medical condition. That is private information.”
The woman said that there was more than just her aunt’s records found in the bin. “There were 25 people’s records in total in the bin, people from all over, and it has been very hard to take for a lot of them who are devastated because of this. We’re looking to get together and take this issue on further.”
Independent Councillor Michael Kilcoyne was outraged by the incident. “I was contacted by a very upset woman on Wednesday about this,” he told the Mayo Advertiser. “I was shocked and outraged by what she told me. How this sort of thing can happen amazes me. Since then I’ve have been contacted by a number of other people about this incident.
“I’m calling on the Minister for Health to carry out a full investigation into this,” Cllr Kilcoyne added. “It’s not the first time we have had something like this happen. Recently in Roscommon we had something similar, and before that we had the incident in Dublin where they were sending notes to India to be typed up and that came into the public domain. People feel that they can’t trust the HSE any more, it’s not good enough.” The HSE confirmed in a statement that patient notes were found and returned to the hospital. “A number of handwritten notes from Ballina District Hospital were discarded inappropriately in Ballina recently,” the statement read. “These were immediately returned to the hospital by the litter warden.
“The information contained in these notes was minimal and consisted of a daily list of patients at the hospital, together with some additional handwritten notes taken by staff members to assist in the process of handover between shifts.”
The statement said that hospital is now investigating how the incident arose and that the Data Protection Commissioner has been notified of the incident and the HSE is liaising with his office on the matter.
“The HSE regrets that this incident has occurred and has written to those affected to apologise for any upset caused,” statement continues. “If anyone has any concerns in relation to this, they can contact Ms Marie Alexander, director of nursing, Ballina Hospital, at (096 ) 21166, who will clarify any issues relating to this matter.”