10 April 2008

Provincial government limits patient use of own health information

Lorraine Michael raised an interesting question in  the legislature today about regulations governing patient records  held by the province's regional health authorities.

The question is interesting not only for what it contains but for the response of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

As the New Democratic Party leader noted, the regulation (NLR 18/08, s. 6) regional health authorities may release records to patients - referred to as clients - however under subsection (5):

A person to whom information is provided or who is permitted access under subsection (3) or (4) shall not publish or disclose information obtained from the client records of the regional health authority where the publication or disclosure may or could be detrimental to the personal interest, reputation or privacy of

(a) a client;

(b) a physician;

(c) a member of the staff of the regional health authority; or

(d) a person employed by the regional health authority. [Emphasis added]

That section of the legislation covers not only individuals who may be using patient records for research purposes but also covers the patients themselves.

Justice minister Jerome Kennedy indicated he wasn't aware of the regulation but undertook to look into it:

I am not aware of that amendment or the regulations you are talking about. I certainly will have a look at them and come back. It does strike me as somewhat strange in terms of restricting people’s ability to use their information, but there would have to be an overriding of public interest. So, I certainly will check into that and we can continue this discussion further.

The Minister might note that the regulations start by establishing that records involved do not belong to the patient (client). They are the property of the regional health authority.

The saving grace here is that the access to information act doesn't contain such a restriction and its provisions supercede the regulations involved.  The access act applies to regional health authorities just as it does to all public bodies, with the exception of the Auditor General. It seems he can decide to exempt himself from following the law by his own decision.