Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
Medical records still not being secured or stored properly in public hospital
Three months after the Ministry of Health pledged to beef up anorexic control systems and lax security measures that left the confidential medical history of patients at two of Jamaica's major hospitals open to public access, another covert visit to the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) revealed that it appears to have been all talk.
During an undercover assignment last week, The Gleaner was able to gain access to a room filled with thousands of medical records.
Some were crushed and on the floor. Others were stuck in the window and even one file prepared on the fourth of this month was seen on the ground just outside the building that housed the medical records.
Some of the records were even left by a broken window that could not shield them from rain. The records appeared scattered and abandoned despite the fact that staff members were seen going in and coming out of the room almost daily. The door to the room was under lock and key at times, but at other times the door was left unlocked.
During the weeklong special assignment, a Gleaner reporter worked as a supervisor with the company that supplies janitors and porters for the hospital. Neither the hospital nor the company - Lamasa Limited - knew that an undercover reporter was working within its ranks.
In April this year, a Sunday Gleaner exclusive revealed that medical records were not being secured at KPH and the University Hospital of the West Indies.
This was in breach of all the rules and guidelines for the storage of medical records locally and internationally and could lead to the hospitals and the Government facing lawsuits.
After a week of silence at that time, the health ministry warned that it would be considering punitive measures for breaches of the regulations governing the handling of medical records.
"The Ministry of Health will be conducting a review of the security of the medical records filing rooms at all health facilities with a view to ensuring authorised access only," read a section of a press release issued by the health ministry in April.
Lyttleton 'Tanny' Shirley, chairman of the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA), admitted that handling the sheer volume of medical records kept at the hospital is a mammoth task.
"That is a challenge. Until we change from a paper-based system to an electronic-based system, it is going to be a challenge, especially for KPH that sees so many patients," said the chairman of SERHA, which is responsible for all public health facilities in St Thomas, St Catherine, and Kingston and St Andrew.
However, Shirley admitted that the records could be handled with better care until the shift from pushing papers around to clicking a mouse in order to access a patient's medical history.
The chairman said the hospital's management must be held accountable for these shortcomings.
"Management must be held accountable for the block-by-block development of the operational functions at the hospital. Some of these things are not about money, they are about standards," said Shirley.