25/03/12 Update: This blog post has been edited from it’s orginal after legal counsel for Dr. Dodwell expressed concerns about the impact of this blog post on his ongoing professional reputation.
Today’s announcement that ACC has managed to send information about
9000 6000 clients, including allegedly 250 137 Sensitive Claims clients, has been described as “the biggest privacy breach in New Zealand’s history.” (Dominion Post, 13/03/12)
So is this a “simple” administrative error, as is being claimed by ACC? Probably, but only due to a system that is haphazard enough to allow it.
Do they seem to have any understanding of the impact upon Sensitive Claimants of this breach of trust? It doesn’t seem so.
And does this seem like yet another symptom of a sick organizational culture, one that denies the rights of New Zealander’s and shrugs it shoulders when it’s asked to explain?
Well there is little doubt that this is a horrific breach of many peoples right to privacy. The spreadsheet containing information on thousands of clients names, claim details and outcomes of their review processes was sent to the client in August 2011. ACC were alerted in December and only now seem to only be responding to this due to it having been made public by the media.
The initial flurry of media attention on the breach of privacy has been understandable and necessary. But I have been captured by another piece of information mentioned in the story. It has been alleged in the same Dominion Post story today that:
“The [ACC] board was given an example of a branch medical adviser who covertly communicated with an ACC assessor providing false information to manipulate a medical report in ACC’s favour.” (Dominion Post, 13/03/12)
However as recently as last week:
“ACC chairman John Judge has told Parliament’s transport and industrial relations select committee there has been no pressure on ACC staff to do anything other than what is right.” (Radio NZ National, 01/03/12)
So what is a Branch Medical Adviser? Well they’re doctors who are hired by ACC to provide expert opinion and medico-legal oversight to claim managers about claims and treatment decisions. They hold a significant amount of power within the internal ACC system.
This online forum post suggests that the current Branch Medical Adviser for the Sensitive Claims Unit is currently one Dr Peter Dodwell. Dr. Dodwell seems to have an interesting employment history. This report from the Sydney Morning Herald outlines how Dr. Dodwell was dismissed from his role of Chief Medical Officer of Healthquest, an agency which provided medical assessments of New South Wales state employees.
I would certainly not wish to suggest that the Branch Medical Adviser mentioned in the Dominion’s story is Dr. Dodwell. However the overall picture is certainly not one which inspires confidence…
So how do you treat a sick organization? Well like any treatment, you start with a diagnosis. And then you treat. But we may need some new doctors for that. I certainly wouldn’t want ACC’s doctors treating me.
And it would be unethical to expect them to treat themselves.