Mark Burgess, the chief executive of the Australian Police Federation, representing 60,000 officers nationwide, says it’s “seemed illogical” that stronger protections were not in place to prevent easy access to the federal government’s national online health database My Health Record.
The comments, made to The Australian, come amid growing concerns about the privacy protections, which may lead to hundreds of thousands of people opting out of the system, which uploads an individual patient’s health records into a centralised database.
Privacy advocates have been concerned that police will no longer need a warrant to access the records and the Australian Medical Association wants the Turnbull Government to increase privacy and security of the digital records.
Yesterday, a report by the Parliamentary Library in Canberra into privacy concerns, which concluded that the law allowed for, under certain conditions, police and other authorities including the Australian Tax Office to access medical records, was removed from the Federal Parliamentary Library.
The Department of Health had apparently raised concerns about “potential omissions” in the report, and it was taken down for review. The revised report is online again here.
Mark Burgess added to the concerns yesterday about the fact that police no longer needed a warrant to access medical records.
“Someone is going to need to amend the legislation to build in that protection, not only for officers but, I would suggest, for the wider community,” the Australian Police Federation boss told The Australian.
The Queensland Police Union also has concerns, telling its members that records can be accessed by fellow police if they come under investigation.
“This means that your My Health Record may be able to be accessed if you are being investigated for disciplinary matter,” the union says.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners is worried it lead patients to withhold information, with president-elect Harry Nespolon saying patients need confidentiality if they to reveal intimate health issues to their doctor.
“Do you really need Centrelink to be able to access your health records?” he told The Australian.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has promised to “refine” the protections around My Health Record, pointing to the fact that the original plan was introduced by Labor when in government in 2012.
Australians have until until October 15 to opt out of the system if they choose.
Former Human Rights Commissioner and Liberal backbencher Tim Wilson announced this week that he was removing himself from the database.
The Australian has more on Mark Burgess’ comments here.
* Additional reporting by Chris Pash
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