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Fraud fear as medical notes probe snowballs

Thousands of patients across Ireland could be at risk of fraud as it emerges that the investigation into illegal access of sensitive medical records has spread to more than 60 Irish hospitals and individual doctors.

U-Scribe, the company hired by Tallaght Hospital to transcribe doctors' notes which were subsequently illegally accessed in the Philippines, also had contracts with other hospitals here and with doctors who used the transcription firm.

The Data Protection Commissioner is writing to all Irish clients of the firm because of fears that patient files have been the subject of significant security breaches.

This could leave thousands of patients at risk of fraud since the documents contain names, addresses, dates of birth, contact information and medical records.

Assistant Data Protection Commissioner Diarmuid Hallinan said he had a meeting with the management of U-Scribe yesterday. It is not yet clear how many Irish clients the company had. he said: It's fair to say they are co-operating fully with us. We will be following up with all of their clients.

"There is no evidence so far that we have received to suggest any other client organisations have suffered a security breach. The only proof in that regard is (in relation to) Tallaght."

It is understood that the company also had contracts with Mercy University Hospital in Cork and Galway University Hospital.

Peamount Hospital in Dublin confirmed it had used the service since 2005. It said it continued to use it and that it had encountered no problems.