Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said in Parliament on Tuesday, February 12, that the 14,200 HIV patients who were affected by the massive data breach of confidential data may choose to take civil action against the Ministry of Health (MOH).
According to Gan, “Patients can take civil action against the Ministry of Health on breach of data or loss of data,” reported yahoo.sg yesterday.
The Health Minister answered a question from Nominated MP Irene Quay, who had inquired about what options a patient whose confidential information had been exposed can take.
However, Gan emphasized that it’s better for these patients to approach the MOH, saying that the ministry would provide as much support to these patients as needed.
“But we encourage them to talk to us, we will discuss with them what are the ways to help them and to support them in whichever way we can.”
Quay had asked the question after Dr Janil Puthucheary, the Senior Minister of State, confirmed that MOH does not fall under the purview of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which is in charge of the collection, use, and dissemination of personal information by private organisations.
This led Quay to inquire, “With PDPA exemption for MOH, what will be the recourse for victims, that the victims can take as a result of exposure of this sensitive information…for better accountability?”
The Health Minister answered many questions in Parliament on Tuesday, since the data breach concerning the information about HIV patients in Singapore had rocked the country last month when it was revealed that a Singaporean doctor Ler Teck Siang, and his American partner Mikhy Farrera Brochez, had obtained access to the data.
It is possible that Brochez may still have possession of the data, dating back from 1985, the authorities have said.
Brochez is also believed to have tried to offer others access to the data via online links.
However, Gan gave assurances that there were no indications that this data had been accessed, “We have quickly worked with authorities to similarly disable access to the online content.”
Brochez, who is HIV positive, illegally used a blood sample from Ler in order to work in the country. Ler, who had been the chief of MOH’s National Public Health Unit from 2012 May 2013, had access to the official HIV registry at that time.
Brochez was indicted on drug-related offences, as well as fraud, and received a 28-month prison sentence in March 2017.
In April 2018 Brochez was deported after his release from prison.
According to Gan, Brochez is now under investigation. “The police are engaging their American counterparts and are seeking their assistance in the investigations against Brochez. The Police will spare no effort pursuing all avenues to bring Brochez to justice.”