The Mackay boilermaker dubbed PB will be compensated $5000 (file image).
The Mackay boilermaker dubbed PB will be compensated $5000 (file image). Mike Knott

Boilermaker to get $5000 after breach of privacy

A MACKAY boilermaker will be compensated $5000 after WorkCover Queensland wrongfully accessed his medical records - but he will be forced to bear his own legal costs because of his "exorbitant" initial request for $4 million.

The Queensland Civil and Administration Tribunal ruled this month that WorkCover Queensland, carelessly but not maliciously, breached the privacy act by accessing the medical records of a 29-year-old boiler maker, known only as "PB", in 2013.

PB had made a workers' compensation claim in July 2013 for hand dermatitis, a reaction brought on by being in contact with a chemical at work.

In his QCAT decision, Member Glen Cranwell found that WorkCover made "a litany of errors in the course of processing his claim. Many... were trivial, although some had more serious consequences".

In the back and forth of the decision between WorkCover Queensland, Q-Comp and PB's employer, WorkCover Queensland, in an overstep of its reach in this case, asked doctors for PB's medical records.

Two doctors, from Fenner Family Medicine and Mackay GP Superclinic, complied with the order and provided WorkCover Queensland with PB's complete medical files.

When PB realised this had occurred he filed proceedings against WorkCover Queensland for breaching the privacy act.

Member Cranwell said WorkCover had since apologised to PB, removed the letter template sent to both doctors so it may never be used again, and changed its telephone claim message to better outline its privacy obligations.

"I am nevertheless prepared to accept that PB has suffered injury to his feelings and experienced humiliation as a result of irrelevant information having been obtained by WorkCover," he said.

Member Cranwell ruled PB be compensated $5000 but did not order WorkCover to cover legal fees.

"The manner in which the proceeding has been run before the Tribunal has stemmed in large measure from the extravagant and exorbitant compensation claim made by PB," he said.

"PB initially claimed compensation in the vicinity of $4 million, notwithstanding the statutory maximum of $100,000 clearly set out.

"Had PB applied an element of sobriety to his claim, or at least claimed compensation within the statutory limit, it is likely that he and WorkCover would have been spared considerable expense in the conduct of the proceeding."