Number hit by data breach still unknown
Published 06/08/2011 | 05:00
THE hospital at the centre of a data breach has admitted it doesn't know how many patients have been affected by the scandal.
Tallaght Hospital has started sending letters to patients whose details have fallen into "inappropriate hands" after it outsourced the transcription of doctors' letters to a company with offices in the Philippines.
"Until this process is complete, we will not know the numbers involved," admitted a spokeswoman for the hospital yesterday.
The hospital had a contract with transcription company U-Scribe from 2004 until May of this year when concerns emerged about security procedures. It now outsources this work to another firm, Dictate IT.
No HSE-run hospitals currently use U-Scribe, however a number of voluntary hospitals do.
These include Tallaght, Mercy University Hospital in Cork and Peamount Hospital in Dublin, which provides services for the disabled, elderly and those with respiratory problems.
Mercy and Peamount have both said they are satisfied with the security of their patients' information.
Local Labour TD for Tallaght, Robert Dowds, said that following a meeting with acting chief executive John O'Connell earlier this week, his concerns over patient data have not been allayed.
He believes the number of patients affected by the scandal are small, but he was unable to confirm this with the hospital.
He appealed to consultants who have private contracts with transcription firms to ensure the work is carried out within Ireland so that it will come under the ambit of Irish data protection legislation.
"The CEO agreed with me that it would be preferable if the letters were typed in-house rather than being sent to the Philippines where our data protection legislation is obviously not effective," Mr Dowds said.
"The Philippines are taking it seriously, as they do a lot of work in this area for other countries, not just Ireland, and their reputation would be damaged if it was widely known that information was getting into the wrong hands," he added.