As Confidentiality Leaks: Investigation Demanded

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Several members of the Liberian public are calling for an immediate investigation of Liberian health experts including Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah and officials at the Ministry as well as officials of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) following the leakage of medical confidentiality of Liberia’s Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.

It can be recalled that a confidential medical notice of VP Howard-Taylor, who is currently seeking medical attention for covid-19 was spread to various social media platforms on Wednesday evening, something which is against Section 12.4 of National Public Health Law and Section 6.2 of the Confidentiality Provision in the NPHIL. 

Result of the VP’s test in Ghana was in further confirmation of an earlier test she did in country, which resulted to her travel, but said the spread on social media was a breach of medical confidentiality and that contravenes two health laws.

Section 12.4 of National Public Health Law states that: “Reports and records required by the provisions of section 12.3 shall not be subject to inspection by persons other than authorized personnel of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, or by the Minister of Justice when such reports and records involve an investigation of an offense, except that the person to whom any such record relates or his legal representative, by signing a written consent may authorize the Minister to open the record to inspection…”

Section 6.2 of the Confidentiality Provision in the NPHIL Act also among other things states that: “All patient related research information or findings, processes, research techniques or plans shall be kept confidential, except as provided herein.”

Accordingly, in a memo, a copy which is in the possession of this paper, Health Minister Jallah wrote: “I am pleased to present my compliments and to inform you that H.E. Jewel Howard-Taylor has been tested positive for COVID-19 on August 10, 2020 and has been requested to travel out of the country for treatment.”

She also indicated: “Based on the advice of her doctor, the Incident Management System is granting her permission to travel to seek treatment.”

Contrary to these key these health laws of medical confidentiality, medical result of the VP was leaked into the hands of unauthorized personalities, who posted it on various media platforms, predominantly Facebook.

While no one is yet to be held responsible for the leakage, the public as well as health experts are calling for an immediate probe into the matter, so that the perpetrator(s) can be dealt with in accordance with the laws.

Several Liberian callers on various radio talk shows and on the various facebook pages expressed sorrow over the health status of the VP and wished her a speedy recovery.

They at the same time called for an investigation of the Incident Management System (IMS) headed by Minister Jallah and top officials at the breach of her medical confidentiality, stressing that it such is a dangerous precedence for the country.

“If this can happen to a high profiled personality like the Vice President, it means it can happen to anyone. And if this is not investigated, our country is heading for trouble,” stated a caller on a local radio show.

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