Federal President of the AMA Dr Tony Bartone addressing the National Press Club in Canberra. Picture: Kym Smith
Federal President of the AMA Dr Tony Bartone addressing the National Press Club in Canberra. Picture: Kym Smith

Why My Health Record rollout must be delayed


Five former AMA presidents are demanding the My Health Records legislation is changed to require police to get a court order before they can access people's My Health records.

And Health Minister Greg Hunt has been forced to respond to growing privacy concerns about the record by setting up a meeting with the AMA president Dr Tony Bartone next week.

Dr Tony Bartone said he would do "whatever it takes" to end ambiguity on the matter of police access because the issue is undermining confidence in the $2 billion record.

Tens of thousands of Australians are racing to opt out of having an online My Health Record which will reveal sensitive information such as abortions, drug addictions, mental health problems and sexually transmitted diseases.

The Opposition called on the government to suspend the rollout of the record to address privacy concerns and members of the public told News Corp they couldn't get access to paper forms to opt out of the record.

And Consumer's Health Forum chief Leanne Wells demanded every household be sent a letter outlining the pros and cons of the controversial record that will be given to every Australia who does not opt out by October 15.

MORE: Why AMA chief does not have a My Health Record

Doctors say it is outrageous section 70 of the My Health Records legislation allows police, the Australian Taxation Office, Centrelink and other government agencies to access the record without a court order.

Around 70,000 women who've had an abortion, drug addicts and sex workers and other people engaged in illegal activity will not share vital health information with their doctor if their record can be accessed by police, former AMA president Professor Kerryn Phelps says.

"Anything which gets in the way of the trust of the faith in the system by doctors will be seen as a deal breaker in terms of the successful roll out," Dr Bartone told the National Press Club on Wedneday.

"I will do whatever it takes to ensure that the ambiguity and any discrepancy between the legislation and what currently is the standard practice is removed and put to bed once and for all," he said.

Former AMA presidents Professor Kerryn Phelps, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, Dr David Brand and Dr Andrew Pesce and Professor Brad Frankum all support the record but called for the legislation to be changed yesterday.

Professor Kerryn Phelps wants the legislation changed.
Professor Kerryn Phelps wants the legislation changed.

But Dr Steve Hambelton, who has been paid to help roll out the My Health Record, says much of the information in the My Health Record is available elsewhere and if the legislation is changed it should be changed for all health records not just the My Health Record.

"I'm not sure it's a problem, I think we are boxing at shadows, he said.

Health Minister Greg Hunt insists it isn't possible for the records to be accessed without a court order.

However, the My Health Record legislation says the Australian Digital Health Agency can release the information to law enforcement bodies as long it "reasonably believes that the use or disclosure is reasonably necessary".

"Labor brought in this legislation in 2012 and it has been operating for six years and just under six million Australians are already on the system," he told News Corp.

"The Digital Health Agency is clear and categorical - no documents have been released in more than six years and no documents will be released without a court order," he said.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says court orders are required.
Health Minister Greg Hunt says court orders are required.

The ADHA had a formal policy "that they cannot and will not issue any records without a court order," he said.

However, doctors point out that this policy can change with the stroke of a pen and the legislation takes precedence over it that is why they want the legislation changed.

Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said Malcolm Turnbull should suspend the My Health Record rollout until the Government can address growing privacy concerns and restore public confidence in this reform.

"The Government's failure to properly manage this rollout has seriously undermined trust in what is one of the most significant pieces of health architecture in a generation," she said.

"As a result, the My Health Record is now at a tipping point."

"Unless the Government takes urgent action, the damage could prove irreversible," she said.