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Sally Gleeson discussing medical issues on 2GB

Sally Gleeson providing Q & A on the 2GB Chris Smith Afternoon Show with Deborah Knight – discussing medical issues – 26 June 2018

Tuesday, 26 June 2018


DK – Deborah Knight /SG – Sally Gleeson /C1,2,3, etc – Callers


DK        Now you would have to agree, technology makes life a lot easier for us in so many ways, especially when it comes to our health. There are apps that you can use to help keep track of your medication. You can lodge Medicare rebates through your phone and you can even book an appointment with your doctor online. However, there is always a catch and Australia’s largest doctor’s appointment booking app, Health Engine is being accused of funnelling private medical information to third parties and you also might have heard in the news about this dodgy gynaecologist who was allowed to work four different public hospitals in New South Wales, despite numerous complaints being made against him including allegations, shockingly, that he removed the reproductive organs of one woman. Plenty to talk about in today’s Legal Matters Segment. Get your calls in. 131 873. Don’t leave it to the last minute and thanks to Turner Freeman Lawyers and their Legal Matters Segment, we have a $100 Westfield Voucher to give away as well to the caller who asks the most relevant question for our subject today. So get your calls coming, there’s a $100 Westfield voucher in it for you. Turner Freeman Lawyers provide of course a range of specialised legal services including compensation and negligence lawasbestos litigationsuperannuation and disability claims, family and employment lawwills, estates and property law. They have it all covered in their offices in Sydney, Parramatta, Campbelltown, Penrith, Newcastle and in Wollongong and their Queensland offices are in Brisbane, Logan, North Lakes, Ipswich, Toowoomba, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and in Cairns. So, if you’ve got a question, 131 873 is the open line number. Sally Gleeson is a partner in the Turner Freeman Sydney Office. She specialises in medical negligence litigation. So if you’ve got a question relating to that, she is your gal and Sally joins us now. Sally. Hello to you.

SG       Hi. How are you?

DK        I know there are plenty of listeners who would have used this Health Engine to book an appointment with their GP. A lot of them, you know, may not be aware that that is the specific app that’s doing it, but how widespread is this privacy breach that we are hearing about?

SG         Oh I think it is extremely widespread. I think – it’s not something that’s new. I mean we talk about it now, but it’s not something that is new – it’s a way that many businesses try to generate and derive you know clients – business.

DK        Of course…..

SG         And it’s not something that you can criticise unless you do something to hurt someone else and that’s the way that business must run. It’s fair enough to want to run a profitable business but in the process you have to be ethical and you have to do what you can to protect the rights of others. So in relation to this particular issue, fundamentally, health carers are required to treat all patient information as confidential and unless there is a clear understanding to the contrary, anything that transpires in that patient/doctor relationship is confidential. There are exceptions of course, but one of the exceptions is consent. The patient given their consent to release their information and in this case the issue of consent whether it was given is quite contentious.

DK        Ok.

SG         This is a doctor booking service and what’s being alleged here that they are saying happened is that it’s farming prospective client’s personal details to law firms and in any way you look at it there has been a commercial arrangement in place. We don’t know the details and it’s not really something that we should delve into without full knowledge. What is really disturbing about the report from a patient point of view, which is what I am concerned about is the so-called disclosure offered by this booking service. It’s a read between the lines type of disclosure and they say “Listen, we’ve offered a disclosure. All you need to do is click on our Terms of Use/Private Policy or Collection notice” and if you click into those sub-headings which appear in hyperlink, you can read them but they are not fully outlined of course. So the whole point of this service it is a convenient, quick efficient doctor booking appointment service. But what is actually happening here which in my opinion is underhanded and quite unethical is that they are using it for another purpose and they are using it for a purpose which gives financial benefits to one and derives business to another and in the process who’s the victim? The patient is the victim.

DK       And effectively the patients have been having, I’ve heard reports of call centres following them up after they’ve had information disclosed to their doctors.

SG         Yes.

DK        As well, wanting to you know offer other services to them but it’s a clear breach of their confidentiality.

SG         That’s right. Because the patient is approaching a service, a doctor’s service because they need to see a doctor or a health care provider, they need to be told that part of this process includes a disclosure of their information and they need to explicitly consent to that occurring.  None of this is happening here. So we are talking here about clear breach of confidence and privacy and confidentiality and when someone is deriving a financial benefit from it, at the jeopardy or at the risk to a patient then there are clear breaches here that need to be addressed.

DK        So what would the consequences be?

SG         The consequences, I mean patients have rights and as soon as the patient realises that their personal and private information has been disclosed, there are remedies that they can pursue and that’s the job of good lawyer. We help people pursue the right remedy. Now, they can report it to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and that’s a Government body that has been specifically set up and one of its purposes is to deal with these things and there are remedies, they can pursue the actual health care provider and there is a remedy that can be offered someone by way of compensation or damages and of course you can pursue them in negligence and that’s where I come into it and we look at all these aspects but of course the law of negligence is clear and specific. The mere act of breaching someone’s confidentiality or privacy doesn’t in itself create a right to that person. So we have to look at the harm caused, what exactly occurred as a result, the ripple effect and we have to analyse it and look clearly at the effect that it’s had on the patient and the harm that has caused them.

DK        Because that’s the thing. I guess a lot of people would sort of weigh it all up and think…. well look you know…… someone’s called me from a call centre but – it’s annoying, but it may not necessarily mean that I am going to take legal action.

SG         That’s right because legal action is whole different ball game….absolutely. But the first point of call is that the patient has to report it. The actual health care provider now has to report it under clear legislation that’s been enacted, legislation passed last year and its established what’s called the Notifiable Data Breaches Scheme in Australia. So as soon as someone knows that they have breached someone’s privacy, they need to notify it. And that’s what the law obliges them to do and then the Australian Privacy Commissioner takes action.

DK        And what do you think will happen to Health Engine?

SG         I think Health Engine will never cease to exist. I think it’s really up to us to make a change.  It’s not just Health Engine. It’s who Health Engine is farming the information off to. This is a process that’s been a collaborative one, it’s not a unilateral approach that has been taken by Health Engine. We are talking about many players in the field. And you really have to look at who’s got the part to play. Bottom line is these patients are approaching Health Engine. It’s an app. They want to book an appointment. As soon as Health Engine retains that information, they have to ensure that that information is kept confidential unless a patient expressly allows them to disclose that information and so you look at them and you look at what the causes of action can be.

DK        You have to be very careful with your information. 131 873 is the open line number if you’ve got a call. Sally Gleeson is with us from Turner Freeman from their Sydney office. Patrick is with us in Parramatta. Patrick. G’day.

Caller 1 – Patrick

Patrick            Hi  How are you?

SG         Good Patrick.

DK        Good.

Patrick*          My question is. My wife passed away a few months ago and they basically gave me a diagnosis of that there was an internal bleed in a period of 5 hours – she went into cardiac arrest and at not one stage did they come and say to me she’s on life support, they basically made up their own mind and never revived her again.

SG         Oh Patrick. I am so sorry to hear that Patrick.

Patrick           And prior to that, 7 days earlier, she admitted herself to hospital and they gave her a pill and sent her home.

DK        Oh dear. Absolutely heartbreaking.

SG         Patrick, what’s been happening in terms of the investigation by the hospital about what happened to your wife?

Patrick            Okay – they basically 70 days ago said to me they were going do an RCA – which is a route cores analysis. That route cores analysis is ready. I was supposed to go last week, but I postponed it because I don’t know if I should have legal representation there.

SG      Okay – so the – I encourage you to make enquiries with the hospital and pursue all avenues with them by way of meetings, the RCA report – whatever investigations they would like to pursue – whatever meetings they want to have with you – you don’t need legal representation there. You’re as good as any lawyer because you know exactly what happened to your wife.

Patrick            Yes.

SG      My job is to help you if there’s been negligence, if your late wife’s death should have been avoided. And I am very happy to speak to you about that. The RCA report is ancillary to that process. It doesn’t – it’s not required for that process to happen in the way that it should happen.  It certainly helps from a factual point of view but of course the RCA report as you know is conducted by the hospital. It’s not conducted by anyone objective or anyone external – it’s conducted by people at the hospital retained employs or talks to. So the RCA report is helpful but many a time have I had an RCA report that was not supportive where we have successfully mounted a case – so I think you and I should talk about it off air.

DK      We’ll give you a number Patrick to Sally off air… And look this $100 gift voucher is coming your way – I’m going to make a unilateral decision here – you’ve been through enough, we’re going to help you out here with a $100 gift voucher my friend.

Patrick            That’s great – thank you very much.

DK      Good on you. Stay on the line and we’ll get your details and we’ll pass them on to Sally and look just an email has come through as well. An email from Tim. He says his mother suffered 4 minor heart attacks in April 2013. She wasn’t diagnosed until August of 2013 when her 5th major heart attack caused her to go into stage 4 chronic heart failure. She then needed a heart transplant and he says her GP at the time and doctors at the hospital presented at a fail to refer to any of the ECGs which would have shown that she was having heart attacks. He says that they simply pushed at the doctors back and forth playing the blame game and completely debilitating and he has now zero faith in the GP and the hospital system. What would your advice to Tim be?

SG      Oh, Tim – the number of stories I have heard where a suspected heart attack or heart failure was undiagnosed – it’s too sad to share – I am very sorry to hear what’s happened and obviously we know that anyone who has heart symptoms, underlying heart issues, the first port of call is to get treatment and it’s a problem that should not be ignored, it’s an issue that is serious and in my experience had something been done earlier, the catastrophic heart failure that your mum suffered from may have been avoided, so it is something that I am very happy to help with.

DK      Alright – good on you Sally – thank you so much. It’s one of those issues that you know medical negligence – it’s – you hear the individual stories and it can be absolutely heartbreaking but there’s got to be some legal follow-up when the system clearly fails.

SG      Absolutely. I mean if you’re not sure if you’re in doubt – there is no harm in making a phone call. We work on a “no win/no fee”  basis, so it’s obligation free – we talk to you and then you make the decision.

DK      Good advice. Sal. Thank you so much as always.

SG      Thank you.

DK      Sally Gleeson there from Turner Freeman – of course their website – You can call them as well. 1300 237 112 if you are in NSW. 13 43 63 if you are in Queensland. Deborah Knight here – great to have your company.


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