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Revealed: how data tamperer confessed

Canberra Hospital.

Canberra Hospital. Photo: Rohan Thomson

A senior executive said she ''lost'' herself while falsifying thousands of patient records at the Canberra Hospital's emergency department, official documents show.

Contemporary records of Kate Jackson's confession to being the central figure in last year's data-doctoring scandal record the executive director of critical care telling her superiors that she stopped tampering with patients' records, because she ''just couldn't do it any more''.

The documents, released by the ACT government under freedom-of-information laws, show the clinical director of the emergency department felt sidelined by the government response to the scandal and repeatedly asked for a greater role.

According to handwritten notes by ACT Health director-general Peggy Brown, Ms Jackson telephoned the health boss on the night of Friday, April 21, two weeks after the data tampering was discovered and asked for a meeting.

When the two women caught up at the department's Civic headquarters the following morning, according to Dr Brown's notes, the younger woman told her she was accepting responsibility for the data tampering.

''I mean I did it,'' Ms Jackson told her boss. When asked for an explanation, the senior nurse told the director-general that she did not understand her own behaviour.

''I'm disappointed in myself. I mean, I can't even understand it myself. It's like I lost myself,'' she reportedly said.

Ms Jackson told Dr Brown that she blamed no ''external factors'' for her conduct.

''When specifically queried (x2) she denied accepting the blame for someone else,'' the notes say.

''She also stated there were no external factors (in environment/service/management) that contributed. I make no excuses.''

More than 11,700 patient records were found to have been doctored between 2009 and 2012 to make the performance of the emergency department look better, with the scandal haunting the ACT Labor government for several months mid-last year.

Ms Jackson, who resigned last August under the threat of dismissal, told the Auditor-General's investigation that she blamed the ''environment'' at the hospital.

''The environment in the executive at Canberra Hospital has increasingly become one where I felt fearful for myself and for other people that I work with,'' Ms Jackson wrote.

The documents also show the concerns of emergency department clinical director Mike Hall about the government's response.

''I am in the position where I have far and away the greatest understanding of what has happened, and at least part of why it has happened, yet I am not fully sure that those who need to make decisions about this are as fully understanding of all these issues,'' Dr Hall wrote to Dr Brown on April 22.

On May 1, Dr Hall wrote to Canberra Hospital general manager Lee Martin, urging the hospital boss to hold a meeting with emergency department staff.

''I still do not feel that the people making some of the final decisions (Peggy and the minister) necessarily completely understand ED processes,'' Dr Hall wrote.

''There is a huge risk of decisions being made that will make my staff's job infinitely more difficult. As you know, they are already under incredible pressure.''


  • What a toxic atmosphere Ms Jackson had to work in! Pressured by her bosses who were being pressured by the government to make the emergency department look good! All because Stanhope et al had made promises and then not given the hospital the resources to carry them out! Her comment "the environment in the executive at Canberra Hospital has increasingly become one where I felt fearful for myself and for other people I work with.." says it all. She shouldn't have been put in this position in the first place!

    Date and time
    March 14, 2013, 9:14AM
    • You are right in that she shouldn't have been put in this position. It shows the executive to be incompetent and asleep at the wheel. It shows an out of control senior manager who clearly required oversight, one who was admittedly corrupt and one who clearly should not have been given this responsibility. Who and what happened to every single one of the people involved in creating this situation? NOTHING.

      To say nobody else knew or collaborated can simply be untrue. Is there not a single person who would have collected this data and looked at it? Did not the staff on the ground see the discrepancy? Did not the executive ask more than ZERO questions? How could data collected not be further analyzed by at least one other person elsewhere?

      This story of acting alone is utter rubbish. There is a titanic coverup and as usual only the scapegoat is getting the knife. No doubt with a lottery payout provided.

      This report and its subsequent coverage is as thin as an old bed sheet. Clearly the CT, or reporters, are not doing any digging or are being prevented to do so.

      Date and time
      March 14, 2013, 11:22AM
  • Unfortunately I have empathy for this public servant because of the policies by state, territory and federal government on performance based criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of a department tied to funding. I though the federal government was going to remove the blame game on health, well that's what that promised but never delivered.

    Tony of Kureelpa
    Date and time
    March 14, 2013, 9:42AM
    • It's not about the patients then is it? You change thousands of records to make the hospital's performance look better thereby hiding and denying the real risks and suffering emergency patients experience due to long delays in being attended to. Don't minimize this incident -people's lives are at risk when emergency departments perform poorly and no one's death is justified because a few public servants didn't want to cop negative feedback from their bosses. Disgusting.

      Date and time
      March 14, 2013, 10:47AM
      • Is Katy Gallagher ever going to take some responsibility for this? Somehow she managed to slip her way out of any accountability, and even turned it around on Jeremy Hanson who at the time was doing the right thing by hounding the govt to keep them to account - now somehow *he* was in the wrong? She has become a master at deception it seems, and this new information only shows just how much information she wasn't upfront about.

        Date and time
        March 14, 2013, 11:27AM
        • Sorry Linnie, but I think if you review the information available into Mr Hanson's "investigation" into this matter you'll remember that rather than investigate the hostile, bullying culture at the TCH he focused instead in the Chief Ministers holiday plans and family ties. Mr Hanson had a real opportunity during this time to stand up for health employees and expose the pressures they are under but chose the easy out of cheap politics - in this respect his failure was just as great as the governments in that he showed total disregard for conditions endured by Canberra's health professionals and instead went for cheap political points. The Canberra Times also failed to display proper journalistic skills on this matter and opted for tabloid coverage of this entire episode - a shameful display all round.

          Date and time
          March 15, 2013, 6:10AM
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