Private medical files dumped in rubbish

THE owners of a private nursing home were forced to reprimand staff after confidential files belonging to 30 elderly nursing home patients were dumped.

It is the second time files from Brookfield Care Centre, in east Cork, have been found by members of the public. The documents identify patients and contain sensitive information about their care needs.

The first set of files were found on December 22 in household rubbish dumped at the Owenacurra River, near Leamlara. The second were found a short walk away at a forest bridge in early March. After the first set of files were found, the nursing home owners informed the Health Service Executive (HSE) that action had been taken so such confidential information would never leave the home again.

The files contained names of patients and individual care needs, including their toilet and sanitary needs, medical history, hygiene and medical records. Beth Stafford, who owns the nearby guest house, Glenview House with her husband, Ken, found both sets of notes.

“I called everywhere to try to get somebody to take responsibility for this and got nowhere. When I eventually got a response from the HSE after nearly three months, I found out that the nursing home seems to have escaped without any kind of real punishment,” she said.

Ms Stafford traced the files to nearby Brookfield Care Centre, when she discovered a prescription among household rubbish. It emerged that on both occasions, different staff members brought the files home and later dumped them with domestic rubbish. Up to 70 staff work at the home looking after 51 patients.

Brookfield owner and director of nursing Clodagh Bohane admitted yesterday that the dumping of such sensitive information was “unacceptable”. She said two staff members had been disciplined.

“We held a number of briefing sessions after the original incident and explained to staff the importance of not bringing documentation home. We also explained fully to relatives what happened. When the second set of records was found, we had to totally withdraw the care sheet procedure as it was posing a risk. Another circular was sent to staff and from now on, breaching patient confidentiality like this will be considered gross misconduct,” she said.

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