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Community angry after files found in dump

Patient files dumped at the public dumping site. (File Photo)
Written by Cynthia Maseko

Confidentiality is one of the cornerstones of health care. So when patients’ private records with sensitive information from a local clinic were found strewn across a local dumpster in Standerton, the town was in uproar.

Patient files dumped at the public dumping site.

Patient files dumped at the public dumping site.

The Standerton community is furious after their confidential patient records were thrown away at a local dumpster, giving easy access to private health information to those who comb the area for goods.

Sakhile Clinic, a primary healthcare facility in Lekwa Municipality, Standerton, is being investigated by the Mpumalanga Department of Health after hundreds of patients’ files were disposed of at a public dumping site.

The local Department of Health spokesperson Dumisani Malamule said corrective measures were being put in place and the dumped files had also been returned to the facility. He added that the DOH would take action against those who dumped the files

‘Mind our own business’

Dumpster ‘diver’ Thabisile Zungu said she and her husband had witnessed a clinic employee tossing the files into the dumpster. The files were full of sensitive personal information and copies of ID documents. “Being Good Samaritans, my husband and I tried to intervene by asking the man why he was disposing the files but he told us to mind our own business.”

A patient at the clinic, Zweli Maphanga, was distraught about this. “It’s hard to believe that a government employee can be this heartless and careless. How can the facility manager allow such thing to happen? Now they will apologise because that’s the only thing that our department of health is good for, but the damage has been done. Our information is out there. People must be held accountable.”

Maphanga added: “Our health facility has violated our rights and now some of us no longer trust and have faith in it.”

Moses Sibisi, who also makes a living as a dumpster ‘diver’, was upset when he saw what happened. “Some people don’t disclose our illness or status to our families but now all the sensitive information is all over town. Those files were supposed to be burned or someone in the facility should have called the relevant patients to collect their files instead of disposing,” he said.

Sifiso Nkala from human rights organisation Section27 said what happened was unacceptable. “Patients’ files shouldn’t be disposed in such manner because their history is always needed for future diagnosis and treatment. Patients have rights that their private information is kept in a safe place. An action against the operation manager should be taken so that this doesn’t happen at any facility”.

The Mpumalanga DOH said that the disposed patients’ records had been re-collected and stored back to the facility and that corrective measures would be taken. – Health-e News.

An edited version of this story was also published on Health24

About the author

Cynthia Maseko

Cynthia Maseko joined OurHealth in 2013 as a citizen journalist working in Mpumalanga. She is passionate about women’s health issues and joined Treatment Action Campaign branch as a volunteer after completing her matric. As an activist she has been involved with Equal Treatment, Planned Parenthood Association of South Africa, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and also with Marie Stopes Clinic’s project Blue Star dealing with the promotion of safe abortions and HIV education.

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