- The opt out period for Australians who don’t want an online My Health Record file is due to end tomorrow.
- The Senate voted to extend it for another 10 weeks, but the change needs to be approved by the lower house, which doesn’t sit for another 12 days.x
- People attempting to use the website to opt out have reported repeated troubles and errors, but the Australian Digital Health Agency says it’s operational and reports of failure are incorrect.
Australians will now have an extra 10 weeks to opt out of the government’s controversial online centralised health records system, My Health Record, with the Senate voting today to extend the deadline until January 31 next year.
While the legislation now has to pass the lower house, where the government has lots its majority, which doesn’t sit again until November 26 – 11 days after the current opt out deadline – Health Minister Greg Hunt announced within hours of the vote that he would agree to the January 31 extension.
Today the Government worked with the Senate crossbench to extend the opt-out period for #MyHealthRecord.
The opt-out period will be extended until January 31, 2019, however, it’s important to note that people can opt-out at any time.
— Greg Hunt (@GregHuntMP) November 14, 2018
New NSW independent MP Dr Kerryn Phelps, who won Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Bennelong in the recent by-election to end the Coalition’s majority in the lower house, expressed her concerns on Twitter this afternoon calling for the deadline to be extended.
Hearing reports of people having trouble opting out of #MyHealthRecord today as the website keeps crashing and the phones have a recorded message that they are too busy.
Government needs to extend the opt out period until parliament votes on amendments and public better informed
— Prof Kerryn Phelps AM (@drkerrynphelps) November 14, 2018
With the current deadline now just a day away, multiple users reported that the site was crashing once again – just as it had earlier in the week. Many also reported problems with contacting My Health Record by phone.
Been trying to opt out of my health record for over an hour. Getting so stressed I need a doctor. pic.twitter.com/QvB5WKI7fw
— Chris Harrison (@harrisonwriter) November 14, 2018
Tried to opt out of #MyHealthRecord online again while I’m on hold and the system remains down. I desperately want to believe in the benefits of this as a healthcare worker, but a deep distrust of the safety and privacy around the system is overshadowing my choice. pic.twitter.com/rSwy9JcJk3
— Sare Bear (@sezzzza) November 14, 2018
— Paul Judge (@Paul_Judge) November 14, 2018
The Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) denies that the site has crashed, saying “reports that the My Health Record system is not operational are incorrect”.
The ADHA says it was experiencing high demand, which slowed down the system and “some people have experienced difficulties opting out this morning”, but those issues were now resolved.
Additional help line operators were also engaged and the option of a call back was introduced and a record would not be created for those people until the call was returned in coming days.
Labor had been attempting to extend the deadline by 12 months, but that proposal was voted down in the Senate 32-30, before senators instead back One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s January 31 proposal.
The matter was passed on voices rather than a division, with the Greens, and independent crossbench senators Derryn Hinch and Tim Storer siding with Labor to pass the vote.
Under the scheme, an online health record will automatically be created for all Australians unless they choose to opt out.
So far around 4% of the population – around 1.15 million people have chosen to not be part of the system amid an ongoing debate about privacy and access to the records.
Health Minister Greg Hunt, who had already extended the deadline to opt out by a month had refused a further extension.
Labor’s health spokesperson, Catherine King, said it would be “scandalous” if Hunt did not accept the Senate’s bill, especially after the system crashed from today’s demand.
“While Labor would have preferred a 12-month extension to allow time to address outstanding issues and rebuild community trust, we are pleased with the Senate’s decision,” she said.
“This will give Federal Parliament the time it needs to pass extra protections and safeguards. It was absurd that the Government wanted to push on with its original timeline before this legislation had passed.
“This delay will also give the Government time to address some of the other outstanding privacy issues, particularly around minors, default settings and automatic uploads.”
King also called on the government to improve its public information campaign on the scheme so people can make an informed choice on whether to opt out of My Health Record.