Newspaper reporters uncover shocking lack of security at Czech hospitals

28-05-2008

Reporters working for the Mladá fronta Dnes daily recently carried out an undercover security test in a number of Czech hospitals, revealing serious shortcomings related to patients’ safety. The reporters, dressed as doctors, accessed eleven of the twelve hospitals tested. They managed to get virtually anywhere they wanted, including intensive care units and maternity wards. Nurses provided them with patient’s medical records and patients readily answered their questions - considered them to be genuine doctors.

Among the hospitals that failed the security test are two of Prague’s most prestigious hospitals – Prague’s Miliatry Hospital and the hospital Na Homolce, where presidents, ambassadors and members of the government are treated. The two hospitals hold a special quality accreditation issued by Joint Commission International, which monitors patient security in hospitals around the world. The commission said it was shocked by the findings and that it had never encountered a violation of regulations of this proportion. Doctor David Marx, who works as a consultant for Joint Commission International here in Prague, says similar security tests are not uncommon:

“Hospital managers abroad usually use their own methods to test compliance with the regulations. Usually they use someone unknown to the hospital staff but I am sure there have been similar tests performed by journalists as well.”

Does it mean that Czech hospitals also carry out these tests?

“I don’t think so. I think this was an unprecedented incident and I am sure that based on the findings resulting from these tests they are going to introduce these tests themselves.”

The most serious shortcomings uncovered by the reporters is the lack of security pertaining to patients’ data. The nurses and other medical staff willingly showed their patients’ medical records to whoever requested them – be it fake physicians or medical students. The undercover reporters were even allowed access to a maternity ward, where they could easily have kidnapped any of the newborn babies. So, what measures should be taken to prevent similar problems? David Marx again:

“First and above all -the management of hospitals must over and over again educate their staff about the importance of protecting patients’ private data and medical records and must continuously monitor compliance with this obligation to prevent people coming from outside to access information about a patient’s condition.”

Anything else?

“The second issue is the general security of the wards and here I think the management has to identify those groups of patients and those types of wards where vulnerable patients are hospitalised, for instance paediatrics wards, senior wards or post-op wards. There management must increase security as much as possible with the nurses really checking the identification of every person who enters the premises.”

The security shortcomings uncovered by the recent Mlada fronta Dnes test is not regarded as an immediate risk to patients’ health and the commission is not going to strip the hospitals of their accreditation. However they will have to submit a plan aiming to prevent such security lapses in the future.

28-05-2008