Doctors in shock over HIV status leak, says GPC chairman Dr Chia Shi-Lu
Many doctors in the country were stunned when the Ministry of Health (MOH) revealed on Monday that the personal information of 14,200 HIV patients had been leaked.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Dr Chia Shi-Lu, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Health, said: "I would say that this matter is damaging to the reputation of doctors. Among the doctors I have spoken to, most of us are shocked.
"One of the central tenets and the bedrock of the medical profession is patient confidentiality, and trust is important."
The patient information was leaked by Mikhy Farrera Brochez, an American who allegedly obtained it through the mishandling of information by Singaporean doctor and National Public Health Unit's (NPHU) former head, Ler Teck Siang - Brochez's partner.
The NPHU holds much of Singapore's public health data, from food poisoning to diabetes to smoking control.
Dr Chia stressed that most doctors are careful with data.
He said the kind of information Ler had access to would be available to a small select group.
"He was at a high level in the ministry, even higher than me, a Member of Parliament. The information he could access, not even I can."
Dr Chia pointed out that since 2016, additional safeguards have been put in place by the MOH, including tightening access protocol.
This included a two-person approval process to download and decrypt information as well as disabling the use of unauthorised portable storage devices on official computers as part of a government-wide policy.
But he said: "No matter how much security, when someone is in a position of trust and betrays that trust, it is no longer just a system flaw. Security can be improved, but no matter how secure the gate, if the gatekeeper (in this case Ler) betrays the trust and opens the door or lets the door be opened, this allows the data to fall into the hands of someone else."