Medical records find - Who is responsible?

THE uncovering of medical records by railroad construction workers in the Glounthaune area between Cork and Midleton yesterday raises serious questions that must be answered.

Medical records should be considered most confidential, and it is staggering to think that hospital authorities could be so reckless as to dispose of such records in a cavalier manner.

The records included letters from GPs and medical files dating from the 1970s and 1980s from Cork Regional Hospital and St Finbarr’s Hospital. They were apparently dumped in the area when it was licensed as a landfill site for dry, non-organic waste, such as building rubble, between 1983 and 1986.

Such confidential records should have been shredded or incinerated, not just dumped in a landfill. The whole process shows scant regard for the privacy of patients.

The reckless manner in which confidential records have been handled raises more serious issues about other medical material that may have been disposed of at the site. Big drums marked “corrosive agent” and “oxidising agent” have also been uncovered, along with blue packets normally used for refrigerated storage.

What did those bags contain? Who gave the confidential medical records to a private contractor? Why were no checks in place to see that the material was disposed of properly? What confidence can people have that the hospitals were not as cavalier in disposing of hazardous waste, or even diseased material? Who is going to be held responsible for this?


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