Nip, tuck, stuff up: Clinic leaks confidential details
A SCANDAL-PLAGUED Sydney cosmetic surgery clinic has leaked the confidential details of hundreds of women from around Australia in an extraordinary privacy breach.
Teenagers are among those left shell-shocked after their names, home addresses, Medicare numbers and medical history were posted on the internet by The Cosmetic Institute in Bondi Junction.
Before-and-after photos of breast enhancements - as well as intimate photos of patients in swimwear - were also uploaded to a publicly accessible index of the clinic's website.
More than 500 female patients have been affected dating back to 2014.
The horrified victims of the outrageous online leak were last night struggling to come to terms with what had happened, telling The Saturday Telegraph they felt "violated".
The compromised website was discovered by a Queensland doctor who contacted the media after noticing the data could be accessed by anyone. The site was automatically storing the naked photos and pre-surgery medical forms clients were required to submit online.
The index of a website is normally private but an IT error allowed access to the public and there is no way of knowing who has visited the website to access the data.
It's not the first time The Cosmetic Institute has found itself at the centre of controversy.
In 2015, the Health Care Complaints Commission found that six patients had suffered potentially life-threatening complications, including seizures and going into cardiac arrest, after a review of its operations. No findings were made.
Yesterday clinic owner Andrew Gill, who told The Saturday Telegraph he was not in charge of the clinic at the time of its previous problems, said he had disabled the website after he became aware of the breach.
"Patient confidentiality is the most important thing for us and we are trying to understand how this information was released," Mr Gill said.
"We have shut down all of our sources of information through our website and we use a digital agency which manages our website for us. Clearly we are very concerned and we are working to see what has happened."
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard declined to comment on the breach and NSW Health said it was not responsible for the clinic.
"The private clinic is responsible for the management of client records for that clinic," a NSW Health spokesman said.
"The private clinic must handle the personal and health information of clients in line with privacy law."
The NSW Information and Privacy Commission is urging women to call a hotline if they believe their details may have been leaked.
Many of the patients contacted about the breach yesterday by The Saturday Telegraph were distraught when they learnt their details - and reasons for seeking surgery - had been published online for all to see.
Wollongong teacher Jessica Clough, 20, said she felt "violated" and "sick to the stomach".
"It is supposed to be private and confidential information and they have breached our privacy in the worst possible way," Ms Clough said.
"When you opt for a surgery like this one it is a very personal decision.
"I did this for a confidence boost. I wasn't feeling great about myself and I hadn't even told most of my friends, only a few people very close to me like my partner.
"I can't explain the feeling; it is just so horrible not knowing who could have looked at this."
A 19-year-old woman from the Gold Coast was one of several teenagers humiliated by the breach. Her sister was due to go under the knife later this year but her mother Carol has now cancelled the procedure. Carol said she was "shaking" with anger over the company's error and upset they would not return her calls.
"I was concerned about her going and doing this in the first place but this is just horrible," she said.
"I am shaking just thinking about it. She even sent them photos and to think they may have been on the website makes me sick. The worst part of it all is I've heard absolutely nothing from them after calling several times."
A Melbourne mother whose daughter's details were leaked online said she was concerned for the teenager's safety.
"This has me really worried," she said.
"I'm close to tears now ... (my daughter) and I talked about getting the procedure for ages and I never would have let her if I knew this is what they did with her information."
Perth mother-of-two Charlene Jabbie was booked to have an operation this year but has since cancelled.
"I did not give them (the clinic) permission to do this," Ms Jabbie said.
"I wanted to do the operation in Australia because things can go wrong in Thailand. I feel violated in my own country."
The Privacy Commission has urged women who fear their details were leaked to call the hotline on 9258 0066.
A HISTORY OF DRASTIC SURGERY
THE clinic at the centre of the shocking national privacy breach was investigated by health authorities after a series of botched surgeries.
NSW health authorities inspected The Cosmetic Institute in Bondi Junction in 2015 after a woman, 22, went into cardiac arrest while undergoing a standard breast augmentation. She was rushed to St Vincent's Hospital suffering "adverse effects" and was admitted into intensive care.
She was one of several patients to have suffered potentially life-threatening medical complications at the clinic, ranging from seizures, rapid heartbeats and collapsed lungs to cardiac arrests.
In January 2015, Amy Rickhuss, 21, also suffered a cardiac arrest during a breast enhancement procedure at the clinic.
The incidents were described as "shocking" by doctors at the time and then NSW health minister Jillian Skinner took a hard line approach by ordering an investigation into the clinic and changing legislation to prevent surgeries happening outside of hospitals.
A Health Care Complaints Commission investigation revealed six patients had suffered potentially life-threatening complications, including seizures and cardiac arrests.
No findings were made. The Cosmetic Institute's Parramatta clinic has since closed down but operations on the Gold Coast and Sydney are still in full swing.
The HCCC alleged the issues were caused by dangerously high doses of anaesthesia drugs.
Cosmetic Institute owner Andrew Gill, who told The Saturday Telegraph he was not in charge of the clinic at the time, would not comment on the previous issues but said "all of our anaesthetists are fully trained".