Medical Student's Career Up In The Air After Letting Her Flatmate Secretly Watch A Surgery

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  1. Dr.Scorpiowoman

    Dr.Scorpiowoman Golden Member

    May 23, 2016
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    A builder’s apprentice witnessed a surgery at Wellington Regional Hospital after accessing the premises unethically.

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    A medical student has been barred from multiple district health boards after she let her flatmate watch a cardiac surgery at Wellington Regional Hospital.

    On Saturday, Capital & Coast DHB said it had concluded its investigation into an incident in August this year, where a member of the public inappropriately accessed the hospital to observe someone’s surgery.

    The incident was able to happen after the medical student, who was a trainee intern at the time from the University of Otago, gave her flatmate scrubs and a swipe card to enter the hospital via a non-public entrance.

    The associate was not a medical student, but was assumed to be one by hospital staff.


    The student was from the University of Otago and when approached about the incident, said she felt “sick”.

    The breach was only discovered when a doctor asked the associate about their studies, at which point the associate said he was a builder’s apprentice.

    “I’m not a medical student, I’m hoping to start in three years’ time. I’m a builder’s apprentice. Thanks very much,” the associate said, according to a report which detailed the breach.

    The report said the patient’s privacy was breached “in an unacceptable way” by having the associate witness their surgery.

    When hospital staff approached the genuine medical student about why she had given her housemate her scrubs and swipe card, she said he “wanted to see an operation”.

    The student said they felt upset and “sick” about the incident.


    John Tait , chief medical officer at Capital & Coast DHB, said the incident was a clear code of conduct breach.
    It was escalated to the dean of Otago Medical School, the university’s pro vice-chancellor, police and the privacy commissioner. Police decided no further action could be taken against the man as the student gave him the swipe card.

    “This was a clear breach of the Code of Conduct that 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,” said Capital & Coast DHB chief medical officer John Tait.

    “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.”

    While the man did not take part in the surgery or have any contact with the patient, an investigation from the DHB about the incident found that the DHB lacked any formal procedure to check students’ identities against ID cards when entering theatres.

    The DHB said a formal process had since been implemented, and it was in the process of actioning other recommendations from the report.


    The student allowed her associate to witness a surgery after giving him her swipe card and scrubs.
    “We have apologised to the patient and their family, and wish to take this opportunity to do so again,” Tait said.

    “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.”

    The student had been barred from both Capital & Coast DHB and Hutt Valley DHB premises.

    Discussions around the student’s future were continuing between the DHB, the university, and the Medical Council, the DHB said.


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