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Published Saturday 10 Oct 2020

Capital & Coast DHB has concluded its investigation into an August incident where a member of the public inappropriately accessed Wellington Regional Hospital to observe a surgical operation.

That investigation found that the DHB lacked a formal procedure to check medical students’ identities against their ID cards when entering theatres. A formal process has been implemented, and we are in the process of implementing the other recommendations from the report.

“We have apologised to the patient and their family, and wish to take this opportunity to do so again,” said Chief Medical Officer John Tait.

“We take patient privacy extremely seriously, and this unacceptable gap in our security protocols was able to be exploited. Our systems have failed the patient and their family in this instance.”

Following the investigation, a University of Otago medical student has been barred from Capital & Coast DHB and Hutt Valley DHB premises. This is due to the findings that the student:

  • accessed DHB information about a surgery that was not related to their duties or studies;
  • used that information to gain permission for an associate to observe that procedure – without disclosing that the associate was not a DHB employee or medical student;
  • allowed their associate to use surgical scrubs and their swipe card to enter the hospital via a non-public entrance, and to access the theatre in order to observe the surgery.

The ‘observer’ did not take part in the surgery or have any contact with the patient. Discussions around the student’s future are continuing between the DHB, university, and the Medical Council.

“This was a clear breach of the Code of Conduct students sign when starting a placement, and a betrayal of the trust that we have in them to put the safety and security of patients first at all times.

“We are deeply disappointed by this student’s actions and behaviour, which have impacted the patient and their family as well as on our staff.”

Questions regarding the student’s actions or consequences should be directed to the University of Otago.

Media contact: Chas Te Runa – 027 230 9571