Contentious legislation to collate health records will be tweaked to quell privacy concerns but still does not give Victorians an opportunity to opt out of the scheme.
Changes to the Health Legislation Amendment (Information Sharing) Bill have been agreed to by the Andrews government following talks with the upper house crossbench.
The bill will enable public hospitals and other health services to more easily share patient information through a centralised database.
Domestic violence survivors, legal practitioners, civil liberty groups and cyber experts fear personal information could fall into the wrong hands if the database is hacked or inappropriately accessed by health staff.
Several crossbenchers have previously flagged they would not support the bill, with Labor needing the votes of at least six non-government members for it to pass on Thursday.
Facing the prospect of defeat, the Andrews government agreed to mandate a privacy management framework and independent expert review of the system after two years.
“These amendments reinforce the protections already in the proposed legislation by further strengthening transparency and accountability of the new secure, digital health information sharing system,” a government spokesman said.
Victorian Greens acting health spokesman Tim Read indicated the party’s four upper house MPs would likely support the bill following the changes.
“Our public hospital system is struggling with staff shortages and delays, but giving them this system will mean staff waste less time on the phone and can spend more time seeing patients,” Dr Read said.
But the Law Institute of Victoria remains unmoved in its position, declaring people must have the ability to opt out.
“We are not saying ‘no’ to a health information sharing scheme, only that Victorians deserve a choice,” its president Tania Wolff said.
While welcoming improved protections, jasa pembuatan pt tangerang Liberty Victoria president Michael Stanton said the amendments don’t remedy the bill’s foundational problem of not having an opt-out mechanism.
“We understand the desirability of health information sharing for medical professionals, but the bill fails to give due weight to the right to privacy and patient autonomy,” he told AAP.
“Given previous data breaches and the sensitivity of some of this deeply personal information, people should have the right to decide whether they want to be part of the scheme.”
Opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier moved amendments on Tuesday to create an opt-out clause, similar to the federal government’s My Health Record scheme.
During an at-times fierce debate, Liberal MP Wendy Lovell noted there had been high-profile cases of officers inappropriately accessing Victoria Police’s central database.
“We don’t want that happening with health records in Victoria,” she said.
Animal Justice Party MP Georgie Purcell said her support for the bill hinged on the addition of better privacy protections rather than an opt-out provision.
She was waiting to read the government’s amendments before committing her support.David Ettershank said he and fellow Legalise Cannabis MP Rachel Payne also shared patient confidentiality concerns.