An investigation has been launched into a “serious data breach” after medical files were found by children at a former health centre owned by SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell.
The sensitive information was found after the centre on the Ormeau Road in Belfast was demolished, the Irish News has reported.
It included names, addresses and medical treatment of patients.
Dr McDonnell said he was “sincerely sorry for any anxiety or upset caused”.
The demolished buildings included a health centre and two doctor’s surgeries, including that of Dr McDonnell.
Read more on BBC.
The Irish News, which broke the story, provided an update:
Work at a building site near to where sensitive medical records belonging to SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell were found may have to be stopped to recover documents.
The files – including details of women’s miscarriages – were discovered by children close to Dr McDonnell’s former surgery on Belfast’s Ormeau Road.
At one time it housed two doctor’s surgeries in a building owned by the Department of Health, separate from Dr McDonnell’s surgery.
The documents included names, addresses and medication handed out to dozens of patients who received treatment at one of the three surgeries.
One file marked “confidential” beside the handwritten name Dr McDonnell appeared to contain details of women who suffered miscarriages during the 1990s.
A similar document bears a second doctor’s name.
Read more on The Irish News.
This is not the first story of this kind we’ve read, of course, and I wonder if the media there would be giving this as much coverage if it didn’t involve a public figure. The facts of the case – regardless of the current status of the doctor – are bad enough and deserving of full investigation. But given that burying or disposing of paper records without shredding was pretty common during that period, will there be any finding of wrong-doing or violation of data protection laws as they were understood and enforced during the critical period?