THE Hong Kong Medical Association yesterday said an order which gives tax inspectors access to patients' files fails to guarantee patients' safety and could compromise confidentiality. The association also accused the Inland Revenue Department of exceeding its power by seizing from the clinic of Dr Patrick Shiu Kin-ying's documents such as X-rays and laboratory reports which a High Court-sanctioned order deemed irrelevant to its investigation. It said it appeared that in Dr Shiu's case, tax inspectors had indiscriminately seized documents, and had not properly executed their power. Association vice-president Dr So Kai-ming said the association hoped the department would not seize patients' records. 'Even if the records were returned some time later, there would still be a gap when the doctor was deprived of information. 'We are not saying doctors are above the law. But please when you are doing it take into account patients' safety and confidentiality.' Under the agreement, the department will be able to make copies of patients' names, addresses and other particulars, including the fees they paid and the dates they attended the clinic. Tax inspectors will also examine documents containing confidential information relating to the medical history of patients but only while searching for material relevant to the investigation. The association criticised the order for failing to specify what steps tax inspectors would take to avoid copying information such as medical histories or clinical details from patients' records. The medical body also criticised the agreement between Dr Shiu, two of his patients, and the Inland Revenue, for failing to clear worries over patients' safety. It said patient records seized from Dr Shiu were still being kept by the Inland Revenue and the doctor had copies of only part of the records. 'Our concern is patients' safety and confidentiality and also how the department handles its investigation,' said Dr So. He said he hoped the department would consider doctors' obligation to keep patients' names and addresses confidential. 'And if the department wants to gain access to patients' records, they can look at them in the doctor's clinic. Or instead of seizing records, they can make copies in the clinic. 'Even if they want to seize documents, they should take good care in deciding what is required and what is not,' he said. Dr So said the association would seek an urgent meeting with Commissioner of Inland Revenue Anthony Au Yeung Fu so that an understanding could be reached for future reference. The medical records of Dr Shiu's 9,000 patients were seized after a magistrate gave the department a warrant to enter his clinic as part of an investigation into his tax liabilities since 1985.