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The personal details of hundreds of Southland schoolgirls have been stolen in a burglary.
The information was on a back-up computer hard-drive stolen from the Invercargill offices of the Southern Primary Health Organisation (PHO) on August 16.
It included names and addresses and the vaccination dates of girls from 34 schools participating in the human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation programme during 2011 and last year, Southern PHO chief executive Ian Macara said yesterday.
Mr Macara, who is based in Dunedin, would not say exactly how many names were on the hard drive but said ''it didn't take a genius to work out it was hundreds''.
The thieves had broken through two locked doors and a locked cabinet to steal computers and electronic gear, he said.
''In some ways, we're the victims. Our staff feel very, very violated. But we didn't have the information encrypted, so there are no excuses, and we apologise.''
Letters had been sent to the parents or guardians of all the girls and a dedicated helpline has been set up.
Staff member Kaylene Holland, who is handling hotline inquiries, said yesterday she had fielded several calls, mainly from parents or guardians wanting to know exactly what information had been on the hard drive.
Mr Macara said schools and GPs were also being notified and his staff had spoken to the office of the privacy commissioner.
An alarm system had been installed in the PHO building since the break-in, he said. PHO staff were conducting an internal audit of data protection methods and were working with the police.
''We regret this unfortunate incident and are doing everything we can to assist the police investigation, which we hope will result in the safe return of the information ... and these people being caught.''
The PHO hotline number is 0800 477-117.