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Disposal of Clinical Records

Media Statement

Thursday 15 January 2004

Disposal of Clinical Records

Authorised members of the public are being offered the opportunity to claim specific clinical records before they are disposed of by Tairawhiti District Health (TDH).

Every year the clinical records of any individual aged 19 years or over who died more than 10 years ago will be disposed of by TDH.

Accordingly, the clinical record of any individual aged 19 years or over who died in 1993 is due for disposal.

Chief Executive Jim Green said clinical records require safe and secure storage and the ever-increasing amount of records means the TDH archives are now full.

“TDH disposes of the records in accordance with the Health Information Privacy Code 1994.”

The disposal process will see around 400 records shredded by a heavy-duty commercial shredder in a secure on-site environment.

Mr Green said this was the second time Tairawhiti District Health had advertised the disposal process. Last year around six individuals and or families took advantage of the opportunity to claim specific clinical records.

“The Code permits TDH to transfer health information relating to an identifiable individual who died 10 years ago to the personal representative of that individual i.e. the executor or administrator of the estate.”

“While under no obligation to advertise, we want to ensure the public is offered every opportunity to collect clinical records.”

He said strict criteria are in place to ensure clinical information is released only to those people authorised to receive it.

“Executors or administrators of estates must provide us with proof of their authority, such as probate, or letters of administration, before they will be able to uplift the information.”

“A personal representative must also provide proof of their identity such as a certified copy of a Birth Certificate or Drivers Licence.”

Mr Green said records must be requested in writing by Tuesday 10 February 2004. Once a written request has been received a TDH Clinical Records staff member will make contact with the requestor.

A series of advertisements detailing the request process are running in The Gisborne Herald this month.


Background Information

Why is TDH allowed to dispose of clinical records?
The Health (Retention of Health Information) Regulations 1996 state that health information must be kept for at least 10 years from the last date of treatment or care.

At TDH, the policy regarding disposal of health information far exceeds the legislative requirements. Clinical notes are kept for 10 years after the date of death or 20 years after the date of death if the person was 18 years and younger.

Clinical notes are kept 20 years after the date of death if the person was 18 years and younger because the diagnosis of some inherited disorders can often only be made after two or more family members exhibit the same symptoms.

The decision to dispose of health information 10 years after the death of a person was made by the Clinical Board in 2001.

The decision was reviewed by the Management Team and the Clinical Board in 2002.

Can the public request clinical records of people who died before 1993?
The clinical records of people who died before 1993 have already been disposed however birth records dating back to 1969 have been retained.

Can the public request clinical records of people who died after 1993?
Each year Tairawhiti District Health will advertise for a period of time before it disposes of any clinical records in accordance with the Health Information Privacy Code 1994. There is no need to make a request until then.

Why can’t TDH’s clinical records be stored electronically?

Clinical records require safe and secure storage. The ever-increasing amount of records means the TDH archives are now full.

Electronic medical records are part of TDH’s Information Systems Strategic Plan. Systems are being implemented incrementally but it will be a few years before TDH can store all its medical records electronically.


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