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Break-in at medical records centre behind discovery of personal files in Donegal park

The HSE has admitted that the discovery of medical files in a park in Donegal in June happened after a break-in to a medical centre.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Stock-Asso

THE HSE HAS admitted that the discovery of medical files in a park and on streets in Co Donegal happened after a break-in to a medical records centre.

There was public outcry after the private file of an elderly woman was found in a Letterkenny park by a family out walking on 9 June. 

A number of other letters and files were also found in separate incidents over a number of weeks.

The letters also included two lists of 33 patients which had been found by litter wardens in Letterkenny in both March and May.

The HSE has admitted that storage containers at St Conal’s medical facility close to Letterkenny University Hospital were broken into.

A lock on the container was smashed open and an undisclosed number of files taken.

The files at this particular centre relate to the records of deceased patients as well as secondary notes on patients.

A spokesperson confirmed that steel cages have now been fitted to locks around the cages on the medical records storage containers.

“A thorough investigation was carried out following the most recent incident and as a result steel door cages have been ordered for all doors for the ground floor of St Conal’s. All containers have been fitted with lock boxes to prevent a reoccurrence of the recent breach where the lock had been broken to gain access to one of the containers,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“The loss of patient files were not as a result of negligence but as a result of theft so there will be no sanctions on staff,” the spokesperson added.

Among the other information found on the street in Letterkenny were letters relating to a woman from Inishowen who was having tests for cancer.

On another occasion, a member of staff left a medical file belonging to a patient in a “public premises”, according to the HSE.

The HSE admitted the lapse in security when questioned by Sinn Féin councillor Gerry McMonagle at the meeting of the Regional Health Forum West.

He asked how many locations were used to store sensitive patients files and what security measures were in place to safeguard the files.

In response, McMonagle was told that medical files are currently held in up to seven different facilities including the St Conal’s Building, a store in Glencar, Letterkenny University Hospital, Scally’s Outpatient Facility in Letterkenny, Harley’s Stores as well as five containers at St Conal’s.

A response from the HSE said: “All locations where charts are stored are locked when unoccupied.”

McMonagle said he was satisfied that the centres being used to store the medical files had had their security upgraded since the security breach.

“However, I would question the cost of having a number of storage facilities around Letterkenny as well as staff time being used to travel to them and access them,” he said.

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Stephen Maguire

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