Appeals court backs health board’s firing of hospital worker for confidentiality misconduct

The worker claimed that she stockpiled patient data as evidence of workplace bullying

Appeals court backs health board’s firing of hospital worker for confidentiality misconduct

The Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of the Bay of Plenty District Health Board to fire a hospital worker who collected and retained confidential patient information to support a workplace bullying claim.

In a judgment made earlier this month, the court ruled that the appeal of former Tauranga Hospital cardiac physiologist Ana Shaw did not raise any noteworthy questions of law and determined that patients’ privacy needs “outweighed other considerations.”

Following Shaw’s dismissal by the health board, she took her case to the Employment Court last year after the Employment Relations Authority ruled in the board's favour, finding that her actions amounted to serious misconduct. Shaw submitted that she kept confidential patient records as evidence of unsolicited edits made to her reports by colleagues and “the impact other staff were having on her work productivity and herself,” claiming that the bullying she experienced extended to racial slurs.

However, the Employment Court rejected Shaw’s reasoning, pointing out that it “must have been obvious…given her training and experience, that by collecting and keeping patient records she was breaching her professional obligations and the DHB’s policy.”

“While she may have thought there was a bona fide reason to collect and hold this information, she only reached that conclusion by putting her interests ahead of those of the patients whose records she collected and kept,” Judge Kerry Smith said in the court’s 4 February decision.

In its judgment, the appeals court pointed out that Shaw “had no explanation for retaining records relating to patients that she had no clinical involvement with.”

“This is arguably a challenge to a factual finding, rather than a genuine question of law,” the court said.

Shaw told the NZ Herald that she had instructed her lawyer to escalate her case to the Supreme Court, calling the Court of Appeal’s decision “absolutely disgusting.”

“I’ve got evidence to show that this is a corrupt system,” she told the Herald.

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