National Maternity Hospital moves to assure women over its IT systems

Hospital says an audit trail is created so any abortion data breach could be traced

Minister for Health Simon Harris ordered the HSE to investigate, describing as “extraordinarily concerning and disturbing” the thought that “anyone’s patient details could be leaked”. Photograph: Tom Honan

Minister for Health Simon Harris ordered the HSE to investigate, describing as “extraordinarily concerning and disturbing” the thought that “anyone’s patient details could be leaked”. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

The National Maternity Hospital has assured women about the safety of its IT systems following an alleged breach of patient information last month involving a woman who had an abortion there.

The hospital says its computer systems produce a full audit trail so that any accessing of patient information by health professionals can be traced.

A spokesman said the hospital had yet to complete an investigation into the alleged breach of patient information. The investigation, begun almost three weeks ago, was ongoing, he said.

Last month, it was claimed on social media that the woman, who had a medical termination in the NMH at Holles Street, was later contacted by an anti-abortion group by phone inviting her to a scan.

It was further claimed she was in contact with the Well Woman Centre about her pregnancy and may have been referred for an ultrasound before being referred to the NMH.

‘Disturbing’

Minister for Health Simon Harris ordered the Health Service Executive to investigate the alleged breach of patient information, describing it as “extraordinarily concerning and disturbing” the thought that “anyone’s patient details could be leaked”.

NMH staff investigating the matter are understood to have spoken to the woman.

The HSE investigation is being conducted by Ireland East Hospital Group, which includes Holles Street. Sources said the issue may prove impossible to “pin down”.

The Well Woman Centre has also said it operated a “locked” patient information system.

Meanwhile, the HSE has said it had no policy of restricting future medical appointments to maternity units to doctors and midwives willing to perform abortions.

This follows the recent advertisement by the NMH of two consultant posts that are available only to doctors willing to carry out the procedure.

Financial allocation

The hospital said the posts were being funded specifically from a financial allocation to the hospital from the HSE for the “provision of termination-of-pregnancy services, and are for individuals willing to contribute to the provision of these services”. They could not therefore be open to doctors who are unwilling to carry out abortions.

Asked about the advertisement, the HSE said it was a matter for the NMH in the first instance. “There is no policy or directive held by the HSE from a HR perspective in this regard. Each job will have its own specific requirements.”

Ten of the State’s 19 maternity units, and 274 GPs, are currently providing abortion services.