|Title:||Mail Management and Postal Remittances|
|Document ID:||Operational Circular OP 1863/04|
|Date of issue:||Thursday, 28 October 2004|
|Status:||NO LONGER APPLICABLE|
|Description:||Policy about opening of all incoming mail, recording of postal remittances and distributing correspondence to action officers.|
|Legal requirements:||State Records Act 2000
|Applicable to:||All health services and organisational units|
|Category:||Accountability & Audit|
|Period of effect:||from 1 October 2004 to 1 July 2007|
|Authorised by:||Mike Daube, Director General, Department of Health, 20-Oct-2004|
|Print version:||View print version|
Mail Management and Postal Remittances
State Records Commission Public Records Policy 5 - Mail Management deals with mail handling procedures and recommends that all incoming correspondence should be opened, registered, classified and attached to a file or a document management system before being sent to action officers.
The State Records Act 2000 and the State Records Principles and Standards 2002 require government organisations to have a Record Keeping Plan (RKP) that complies with the principles and standards established by the State Records Commission. Further information about the State Records Act and associated Department of Health policies can be found on the HOLII Records Services page:
Treasurer's Instruction 701 to the Financial Administration and Audit Act requires agencies to include in their accounting manuals appropriate policies and procedures for the recording and receipt of postal remittances.
The State Solicitor's Office has provided an opinion that all mail including that marked "private and confidential" can be opened by the relevant agency concerned. However, mail which can be identified as being addressed to patients or to doctors exercising private rights of practice, would not constitute a "government record" and should not be opened. Health Services should advise prospective patients to ensure that their private mail is clearly marked "Private Patient Mail". Doctors exercising rights of private practice would need to make arrangements for private addresses.
Mail remains the most used way of sending and receiving information and it is essential that mail is processed in a planned, disciplined and consistent manner. A key component of financial accountability is that all public funds are recorded and banked immediately they are received. Capturing mail at source also needs to be supported by a records management program. A systematic approach to the management of records is essential for health services and the community to protect and preserve records as evidence of actions.
There are compelling financial and legal reasons why all mail should be opened, registered and acted upon. Failure to open mail addressed to a particular person could result in a claim of negligence being made against the Department due to failure to act leading to some loss or detriment which could have otherwise been avoided.
Concerns about compromising patient confidentiality by records management staff are placated by provisions of the Criminal Code, Public Sector Management Act 1994 and WA Public Sector Code of Ethics.
The Record Keeping Plan (RKP) developed by the Department of Health provides evidence to affirm a regime of compliance with the State Records Act. The RKP applies to all employees of the WA government health sector ultimately reporting to the Minister for Health. This includes the Department of Health (DoH) entities, public hospitals, public community health services, public pathology laboratories, public health and mental health clinics and services, public nursing homes, DoH contracted services and any other WA Government health sector organisational entities.
Each Chief Executive shall ensure that all external mail - whether received through the post or hand delivered - shall be opened in the presence of two officers in a secure area, registered and distributed. Any remittance received would need to be processed in accordance with the procedures outlined in Chapter 26 of the Western Australian Health System Accounting Manual. However, mail which can be identified as addressed to a patient and/or clearly marked on the envelope as "private patient mail" (or equivalent) should not be opened by mail officers.
Doctors exercising rights of private practice at hospital sites and who do not want their mail to be subject to opening by mail officers should make arrangements for private addresses such as a personal post office box. Other health care workers employed by a hospital should make similar arrangements to avoid personal mail being opened in the normal course of business.
Chief Executives are to ensure that appropriate arrangements are implemented in their respective area by no later than 1 December 2004.
Please find attached a suggested memorandum that you may consider adapting for your internal communications.
This circular last updated: Thursday, 28 October 2004 at 12:00am