VCS Pathology is a government funded laboratory primarily responsible for reporting cervical cytology tests. It is operated by Victorian Cytology Service Inc. (VCS)

The management and staff of VCS Pathology appreciate that personal and health information is held by the organisation. The organisation has strict confidentiality practices in place and all staff are required to abide by these. All persons who may observe personal and health information held by VCS are required to sign a confidentiality statement.

All information is managed on the premises of VCS. Backup tapes of the information system and some test slides are stored in a secure facility off-site. No personal information is provided to sub-contractors, other than to contracted debt collection agencies. VCS Pathology does not disclose an individual’s personal or health information to any overseas organisation or person (other than the individual).

How is personal and health information collected?

VCS Pathology collects personal and health information directly from individuals and also from other persons involved in the care or treatment of an individual, such as their health care practitioner that orders their pathology test.

What personal and health information is held?

VCS Pathology holds only information that is relevant to the performance of its work and activities.

The type of personal information and health information that VCS Pathology collects and holds about an individual in respect of whom it conducts a pathology test includes the following:

  1. Name (current and previous), date of birth, current and previous addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses.
  2. Cultural and linguistic diversity status, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status.
  3. Medicare Number.
  4. The results of all pathology and screening tests performed by VCS Pathology.
  5. In the case of Pap smears reported by VCS Pathology, VCS Pathology may obtain associated colposcopy, histopathology and other relevant pathology results from health practitioners and other laboratories through the Victorian Cervical Cytology Registry
    and cervical screening registries in other Australian Jurisdictions.
  6. Clinical information provided by the health care practitioner ordering the test and clinical information provided by an individual – this may include a description of current or previous symptoms or health status.

VCS also collects and holds personal information regarding the health care practitioner ordering a pathology test for an individual including the practitioner’s name, address and Medicare Provider Number.

VCS Pathology may also collect personal information about individuals in other circumstances, such as if a person applies for a job with VCS Pathology or otherwise deals or transacts with VCS Pathology.  The type of information VCS Pathology may collect in those circumstances includes: name, address, date of birth, financial details, employment details and telephone numbers.

How is personal and health information used?

VCS Pathology uses the personal and health information it holds about an individual for the following purposes:

  1. To provide recommendations for follow up.
  2. To perform and to assist in reporting a pathology test that has been ordered.
  3. To charge for those services (where appropriate).
  4. For research to improve our knowledge, particularly of how to better prevent cancer of the cervix in women. However, no research publication identifies an individual person.
  5. To provide statistical data to the Department of Health to support the Victorian Cancer Action Plan 2008 – 2011 (or its replacement) in increasing screening participation rates in specific populations or to provide statistical data to other government bodies and agencies for cancer related purposes.
  6. To manage our relationship with clients, employees, employment applicants and service providers.

When is personal and health information disclosed?

VCS Pathology may disclose your personal and health information for the purposes set out in the previous section.  It may also disclose your personal and health information in the following circumstances:

  1. To your health care practitioner who ordered the pathology test.
  2. At your health care practitioner’s request, to another health care practitioner.
  3. At your practitioner’s request, to another laboratory when a further opinion is being sought on a pathology specimen or for a pathology test that has been ordered but which is not performed at VCS Pathology.
  4. In accordance with the Health Insurance Act, to Medicare Australia for the purpose of payment for services for bulk-billed tests such as histology, HPV tests and Chlamydia tests.
  5. In accordance with the Health Insurance Act, to Medicare Australia to facilitate payments for the Cervical Practice Incentive Program. (See next section).
  6. In accordance with section 62 of the Cancer Act, to the Victorian Cervical Cytology Registry for women who reside in Victoria. For women who reside outside of Victoria, information is provided to the relevant Pap Test or Cervical Cancer Screening Register operated by the woman’s home state or territory. Where VCS Pathology is aware that an objection has been lodged to such notification, then no personal or health information is disclosed.
  7. In accordance with section 60 of the Cancer Act, to the Victorian Cancer Registry for individuals who reside in Victoria and who are diagnosed with cancer.
  8. To your representative (e.g. an authorised representative or lawyer), with your written consent.
  9. To our legal advisers and insurers.
  10. To the Victorian Department of Health or to another State or Commonwealth government department or agency in connection with the performance of one or more of its functions.

Does my information have to be provided to Medicare Australia for the Cervical Practice Incentive Program?

You have a choice as to whether VCS Pathology discloses your personal information to Medicare Australia for the Cervical Practice Incentive Program (CPIP). Under the CPIP, the Government provides additional money to general practitioners if a certain percentage of their female patients are screened regularly.  The CPIP is run by Medicare Australia. Further information about the CPIP is available on Medicare Australia’s website (www.medicareaustralia.gov.au).

In order for accurate statistics to be available for each general practitioner, VCS Pathology sends information to Medicare Australia about each woman who has a Pap smear reported by VCS Pathology. On a 4 weekly basis, the following information is sent from VCS Pathology to Medicare Australia – name, address, date of birth and Medicare Number.  This is done after a 4 week delay in order to give you time to notify us that you do not want your information sent to Medicare Australia.

If you prefer that your information not be sent by VCS Pathology to Medicare Australia for the CPIP, please notify us by email (directorate@vcs.org.au) or by writing to the following address:

A/Prof. Marion Saville
Victorian Cytology Service
PO Box 178

Even if you decide that you do not want your information to be sent to Medicare Australia for the CPIP, we are still very happy to report your Pap smear and we will continue to offer you our full range of services.

How an individual may obtain access to, or correction of, their health information

Results of pathology tests are normally provided to your health care practitioner who ordered the test.  The best way to get your results is in consultation with your health care provider so that your practitioner can explain your results in the context of your health care.

You may request access to information we hold about you. VCS Pathology is happy to provide an individual with access to their personal and health information at no cost. You may also request correction of your personal and health information.

The following section describes how you may request access to or correction of your information.

  1. Your request should be in writing (an application form is available on request) and be addressed to the Executive Director at the contact details set out below.
  2. You should provide sufficient identification so that the authenticity of the request can be considered to be satisfactory by the Executive Director of VCS.
  3. Upon lodgement of a request, the Executive Director of VCS will oversee the process whereby your personal and health information is made available to you, or corrected, subject to the requirements of applicable privacy and health records laws.
  4. The personal and health information will be provided in printed form to you or alternatively you may visit the VCS Pathology to personally view your records by appointment.
  5. VCS Pathology will ordinarily respond to these requests within 25 working days of receipt of the request.

How to make a complaint regarding your privacy?

If you have any concerns or complaints about the manner in which VCS has handled your personal or health information, please contact us in writing at the below address.  We will endeavour to resolve your complaint promptly and will provide a written response to you. 

Contact Details for VCS:

Postal Address: The Executive Director
Victorian Cytology Service
PO Box 178
Carlton South  VIC  3053
Email: directorate@vcs.org.au
Telephone: 03-9250-0300
Fax: 03-9349-1949
Alternatively, you may wish to direct your complaint to the Health Services Commissioner.

Contact Details for the Health Services Commissioner:

Postal Address: Health Services Commissioner
30th Floor
570 Bourke Street
Melbourne  VIC  3000
Email: hsc@health.vic.gov.au
Telephone: 1800-136-066