The My Health Record roll-out has been marred by a major health data breach in Singapore, a federal Liberal MP breaking ranks and fresh attacks on the government’s messages to the public.
Labor health spokesperson Catherine King today called on the government to extend the three-month opt-out period which began last Monday, when 20,000 people bolted from the MHR program on the very first day.
She said Australians needed adequate time to “make an informed choice”.
“There has been significant and growing community concern about the My Health Record since the beginning of the op-out period on 16 July,” she said.
“The government has failed to effectively communicate with the public about what the My Health Record is and the potential benefits it could bring.
“It has also failed to explain to people how their rights will be respected and their privacy protected.”
The government’s approach in shifting from opt-in to opt-out to boost the uptake of the electronic health record had “fuelled suspicion and scepticism”, she said.
Breaking ranks with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Victorian Liberal MP Tim Wilson revealed that he had opted out because of freedom-of-choice objections.
He also appeared to disown the electronic health record system, whose development was initiated under Labor in 2011.
“It’s a situation we’ve inherited from the previous government, who legislated for My Health Records,” Mr Wilson told Sky News.
“There is nothing wrong with having a My Health Record system, but my position about whether people should be free to choose remains resolutely clear.”
Labor dubbed the roll-out a disaster after the rush of people to withdraw their consent from the centralised health record system.
The attrition rate last Monday would have been higher but for technical glitches that overwhelmed a call centre dealing with people trying to exit the scheme.
Several high-profile doctors have made it clear that they would be opting out of the MHR because of inadequate assurance on security and privacy controls.
In Singapore, a hacking raid on the government’s health database accessed the personal data of 1.5 million people in an attack aimed at Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the government said on Friday.
“The attackers specifically and repeatedly targeted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s personal particulars and information on his outpatient dispensed medicines,” it said.
The attack, observed for a week from late June, was “the most serious breach of personal data” that the country has experienced.
“Investigations by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) and the Integrated Health Information System (IHiS) confirmed that this was a deliberate, targeted and well-planned cyberattack,” a government statement said.
“It was not the work of casual hackers or criminal gangs,” the statement by the Health Ministry and the Ministry of Communications and Information said.
The attackers copied the non-medical information of patients who had attended clinics between May 2015 and July 4.