16.02.2010 | Andriy Shkula

“Confidential medical records” handed out without problem in Ternopol clinics


Medical confidentiality is protected by law, and a person’s illness should be known only to him and his doctors. It turned out, however, that you can find out any Ternopil resident’s illnesses in a matter of minutes. You only need the person’s address and last name. All illnesses – from a cold to cancer or AIDS – are recorded on the medical card. For that reason people with really serious illnesses do not want outsiders seeing the records. Only the last name and address.

Journalists from the media outlet “20 Minutes” learned how easy it is to see other people’s medical records in Ternopil city clinics.  They found out where each of their colleagues was registered and their address. None of them minded if we saw their medical records. Knowing this we set off on our hunt, together with a photographer.

In Clinic No. 1 they have to wait some time. When it’s the journalist’s turn he is asked for his name and address, and gives that of a colleague, and is handed the medical card to give to the doctor. No documents or additional information are required, no passport checked. They then wait until the clinic assistant’s attention is distracted by a new patient and quietly leave, holding the medical record.

In the next clinic they do encounter a problem. The assistant this time asks for the patient’s patronymic and they didn’t ask their colleagues for this information. The journalist pretended he hadn’t heard and asked the question again. The information was whispered to him by the colleague with the camera. The woman at registration didn’t seem perturbed by the whispering, and handed over the card without asking for any documents. A big queue had built up behind us so we left knowing that it wouldn’t be noticed.

In the last clinic on their travels, they’re told that there are no more tickets for today where they need to go, and that they should return the next day. They ask if the woman can at least give them the card and a referral slip. She asks the name address and gives the card. Having received another person’s medical records, we leave the clinic.

To get three other people’s medical records in three different clinics we needed a little over an hour and information that anybody can find out.

The author quotes lawyer Vasyl Kohut who confirms that medical records are confidential. This is confirmed in general terms by Article 32 of the Constitution, and in Article 286 of the Civil Code. The latter states that an individual has the right to confidentiality regarding his/her state of health, the fact of seeing a doctor, the diagnosis, results of a check up. And all these details are on the medical card, and therefore getting hold of this without the person’s knowledge is a violation of their rights. According to Article 275 of the Civil Code a person is entitled to defend their rights in court demanding moral and material compensation.

According to the law, the person whose rights have thus been infringed can take the person who got the personal details to court, or the establishment which failed to look after them properly.

The journalists did not want to set up the medical assistants or cause them problems, but merely to demonstrate the failings in the system which are violating people’s constitutional rights.

The author notes that the idea for this investigation was in part taken from colleagues in another Ukrainian city who also tried to receive their own colleagues’ medical records. There, however, they did not succeed in all the medical establishments they tried. In Ternopil there were no problems.

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