Seventeen million Australians will now have until the end of January to opt out of the Government’s controversial My Health Record scheme.
Today was the planned deadline but yesterday the giant digital system to store our personal medical data apparently hit capacity and it crashed as people rushed to opt out. The Government was then forced to back down in the Senate and extended the deadline.
Health Minister Greg Hunt joins me now from Mornington in Victoria. Minister, thanks for your time. Let’s get to why people are worried about this.
The police, employers, insurers, could access this - have you fixed that problem?
Well firstly Nat, police and employers and insurers cannot access it. The only way police have ever been able to do that is through a court order but we’re legislating that component and we’re providing additional protections.
This of course is your GP records, your medical records which are already on store elsewhere but not available to somebody, so it’s about giving them access to their own records.
It’s about ensuring that the more than 200,000 Australians who are admitted to hospital for misuse of medicine are less likely to do that with better information and in an emergency.
If somebody is in the emergency department and they’re unable to speak for themselves, which is often the case in an emergency, if you have an allergy such as penicillin for the medical professionals to be able to see that and as the president of the AMA has said, this can save lives.
So those protections are significantly in place.
There are more protections which are now before the Senate and yesterday the Senate crossbench defeated a Labor proposal which would have effectively deferred the privacy protections and deferred the doubling of criminal and civil penalties including jail terms and instead they agreed with us to extend the date before which a record would not be created until 31 January.
But people can opt out at any time in their lives or opt in at any time in their lives.
So Minister, where have you messed up? Because you have got thousands of people all around this company crashing your website because they’re worried about their privacy. So obviously, the message is not getting through.
Oh look, I think it’s very important to make sure that everybody has choice. At this point in time we have about 4 per cent of Australians that have opted out.
We were expecting 10 per cent in terms of providing choice and freedom and information and so it’s well under half of what we were anticipating and I think that that’s, to me, a very, very heartening sign.
I’ve also been assured that the website is running well and the phone system is now running well. There was a delay and I think it’s very important to acknowledge that and that agency has apologised for that and taken steps.
So we take responsibility and I take responsibility for that but that was a brief thing on one day but significantly when you’ve got the chance for every Australian to opt in or opt out at any time in their lives, but most importantly, to have access to their own medical records whether it’s about immunisations, whether it’s about illnesses, whether it’s about something that happened long ago, these are things that can save lives and that’s why it’s such an important system.
And important to get these things right from the start I guess as this has shown. Now you’re in your active wear, this morning, congratulations because you’re walking 500 kilometres for autism awareness.
And you’re announcing $4 million in funding, so good luck with that important initiative for autism. Thank you very much for your time this morning, Minister.