Thursday, 1 April 2021
Prime Time Investigates Programme on Department of Health: Statements
Michael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
The "RTÉ Investigates" programme claimed the Department of Health has been secretly using information from private doctor consultations to create dossiers on children with autism who are involved in legal actions against the State and without the knowledge of their parents. As the programme outlined, the information accumulated over time from the private clinical consultations of families who were preparing legal action against the State in respect of the insufficient educational support provided for their children. Highly sensitive data pertaining to these children's medical and educational records informed the content of these dossiers and those data were gathered without the families' knowledge or consent. Instead of helping these families, the Department was doing the very opposite. What was going on beggars belief. All the while, the families thought the consultations were under the protection of doctor-patient privilege. What happened was a total abuse of power and those held responsible must be dealt with in the appropriate manner.
Where has GDPR gone? It seems to me that it goes out the window when it suits. These revelations involve a gross breach of trust. There is a sense of shock and devastation among parents of autistic children and, indeed, the rest of the public. This shocking news while we are all going through this pandemic deals us all another blow. The Taoiseach, the Minister for Health, the Ministers of State at the Department of Health and all those at the Department need to explain how this was allowed to happen.
In fairness, the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, who is present, was not in her current position when these events occurred, so I cannot understand why she was asked to come to the House to answer questions on the matter. The former Ministers for Health and current Minister for Health should be before the House. I mean no disrespect to the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte. She has been sent out to answer questions. It is clear from some of her replies that she does not have the answers to some of the questions asked by Deputies. I understand why that is the case, given that she was not in her current role at the time in question. I ask her to reply to the few questions I have.
Was what went on here a widespread practice? Was it standard practice? Other Deputies have asked whether the current Minister for Health or his predecessors knew anything about this matter If they did not, why not? Does it extend beyond the Department of Health?