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'A disgraceful and grubby act' – Health Minister unloads on Boag and Walker over leak

Health Minister Chris Hipkins has unloaded on political operative Michelle Boag and former MP Hamish Walker after a report into the leaking of Covid-19 patient information, released today, found that it was a political act.

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An inquiry into the leaking of info of active Covid-19 cases was a ‘political’ act, Chris Hipkins said. Source: 1 NEWS

Mr Hipkins made the comments at this afternoon's Covid-19 press briefing, where one new case in managed isolation was announced.

"This was a disgraceful and grubby act carried out by two National Party members for political purposes," he said.

"They gave no thought to the stress and harm they may have caused the individuals as they hatched their plan to gain political advantage."

However, he did concede the leak highlighted potential weakness in the Ministry of Health's processes.

"The report is also clear that the ministry’s processes could have been tighter and they have now done that, and the risk of further leaks of that information has been removed."

It comes after an inquiry today found there was no justification for Mr Walker and Ms Boag to leak confidential Covid-19 patient details.

Covid-19 patients' privacy breach 'not justified or reasonable', inquiry finds

The inquiry by Michael Heron found their motivations were political and "not justified or reasonable".

Deputy State Services Commissioner Helene Quilter has referred Mr Heron's report to the Privacy Commissioner.

The report found the security around personal information by the Ministry of Health "could have been tighter and the agency should have reviewed this earlier", Ms Quilter said.

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The Privacy Commissioner is now set to look into the leak, which resulted in the ouster of National MP Hamish Walker. Source: 1 NEWS

RACISM ACCUSATIONS

Mr Walker told Mr Heron he leaked the information in an effort to hold the Government to account and to respond to an accusation of racism.

“He explained how one of his constituents had informed him about a likely influx of people to the constituency (Clutha-Southland) from three countries, which was causing concern because of inadequate facilities and preparation."

Mr Walker issued a press statement and “it was met with varied reactions, some, including a Government minister, calling Mr Walker racist”, the report said.

He went to Ms Boag “in his distress” and she forwarded him the email with the Covid-19 patient information.

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Health Minister Chris Hipkins said the trust was having a look at who should get access to the confidential information. Source: 1 NEWS

In a statement to the inquiry, Mr Walker wrote, “Ms Boag provided me with this information for me to use in my defence against the accusation of racism”.

“I could not believe confidential patient information was being sent to a wide range of people from the Government like a school newsletter with no password protection.

“I saw this as a major flaw that I could expose at the same time," he said.

“I accept that my judgement was impaired due to the pressure and distress of being labelled a racist.”