Ministry of Health leaks COVID-19 Patients First and Last Name to Stranger

Ministry of Health leaks COVID-19 Patients First and Last Name to Stranger

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thisquality has seen a document that includes the full name of a patient being sent to a wrong person even though the wrong person reported they were not the patient to an automated bot from the COVID-19 text system that says to a patient that they’ve tested NEGATIVE.

The first time the wrong person received a text message was sent on 7/13/2020 at 6:37 pm saying the first name, the date of the test that the patient had taken it on, the next steps to take, a number to call if it wasn’t the right number (0800 226 842) and, a two letter- 7 digit code.

The wrong person called the number to report that it was the wrong person that the text message was meant to be sent too, but it wasn’t a human that answered, it was an automated bot that asked to quote the number at the end of the text to report as a wrong person being texted. It also says that it will not need to contact the concerned/wrong person back after reporting the mistake.



The second text message was sent to the same wrong person on 7/14/2020 at around 8:55 am, it had the first name and last name of the patient and says that the test has come back negative, also says to stay isolated if the symptoms remain and seek medical advice if the patient becomes unwell. It says to contact 29993** and then the medical center name.

This is technically a breach of privacy and the person that is still awaiting the test results has to stay locked down.

  • The automatic system does not as far as it seems, could be a glitch but the number was said clearly from the concerned person in an audio recording to the bot.
  • There is no option to talk to a real person while reporting the wrong number being messaged.
  • The innocent person would be wondering if they have been tested positive or negative unless they call up MOH them selfs after days of waiting.


Here’s an example of why this breach needs to be run by humans:

  • MPI can call up farmers as humans instead of bots, MPI will call up farmers after each testing on cows to make sure it’s done right and noted. Why can this not be done the same way for the MOH?

Contacting the Ministry of Health leads to getting reasoning for this privacy breach of a patient, a spokesperson for the Northern Region DHBs (Northland, Waitematā, Auckland and Counties Manukau) follows-

“The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) is responsible for running the regional response to the COVID-19 pandemic on behalf of four DHB’s (Northland, Waitematā, Auckland and Counties Manukau). As part of our response, we look after COVID-19 testing in the region. To make it convenient and quick for people taking a COVID-19 test to receive their negative test result, we introduced an automated text message system. It is important to note an automated text message is only sent when a person tests negative. If someone tests positive for COVID-19, they will receive a call from a medical officer of public health who will advise them on the next steps.”

As is the case in communicating any test result, MOH (Ministry of Health) has set up a process to protect patient information and privacy. This process is in line with the privacy policies of the Northern Region DHBs.

“To protect patient privacy, the automated text message contains only limited information and a number to call if it has been sent to the wrong person. The Northern Region has processed hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 test results and, occasionally, people getting a COVID-19 test have given us the wrong number by accident or it has been recorded incorrectly.”

The spokesperson says when an error is reported to the phone number provided in the text message, their team works quickly to:

  • Log that an incorrect number has been recorded. An alert is sent to the referring GP and/or community-based testing center (CBAC) where the test was taken
  • Contact the person who had the test taken to inform them of their negative test result. In most cases, this is done within a few hours

The team monitors the phone line during working hours 7 days a week.

“In regards to the second text message, we have contacted the medical practice you identified. They confirmed they do send text messages to patients as this is aligned with the Ministry of Health requirements for communicating results. The practice is unable to comment on this case due to patient privacy. It is possible that the patient who had the COVID-19 test either gave the incorrect mobile number or it was entered by the center incorrectly.”


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