Breech of Privacy – Letter to Dominion Post

You have to wonder what goes on in the minds of some councilors. I attended the HB Regional Council meeting on Wednesday in which Councilors Dick, Hewitt, and Scott complained about receiving 4,000 odd emails.

I thought this was all part of the democratic process.

Councilor Dick claimed it was an electronic invasion and a breach of his privacy. There is no breach of privacy. Councilor’s email addresses are a matter of public record and anyone is entitled to email them.

The only breech of privacy it turns out, is that Councilor Scott shares an email address with her husband. How confident can we be that confidential papers sent to Councilor Scott have not been read by her husband? More seriously how confident can we be of the privacy of any of Dr Roger Scott’s patients given he gets emailed clinical information in his role as an anaesthetist?

Today I emailed both HBRC and NZ Society of Anaesthetists in an attempt to get some answers on what are their respective email policies. I await their responses.

I got this response from HBRC

Hi Paul

Sorry for not acknowledging – let me go straight to the answers for you.

Correspondence between councillors and constituents is public information unless advised by either the sender or the recipient.  So you would have to identify that the email correspondence was “Confidential”.

In 2014 Council staff attempted to require our councillors to use email addresses for Council correspondence. That did not end well with most councillors choosing to retain their private email addresses for Council business. As a result of that we do not send confidential papers electronically but only by hard copy to minimise breaches of confidentiality.

We might try again after the next election.



So if we want to keep emails between constituents and councilors confidential we had to note them as such. How was anyone supposed to know this?

I received this email from NZSA

Dear Paul

 The NZSA is a voluntary membership organisation which advocates for the profession but does not set the standards for medical practice. However, we strongly support and endorse both the Code of Conduct of the Medical Council of NZ (the regulatory body for the medical profession in NZ) “Good Medical Practice” and the Code of Ethics of the NZ Medical Association, which outline the professional standards expected of the medical profession, including patient confidentiality and privacy.

The District Health Board, or other employer if a doctor is working in a private setting, will have a policy on upholding patient privacy and confidentiality.

Concerns should be directed to either the DHB, other employer or the Privacy Commissioner.

 Kind regards


This entry was posted in 2016 HBRC Election, Dominion Post, Letters to Editor and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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