Today my office made a submission to the Standing Committee on General Government to provide comments and concerns about Bill 160, The Strengthening Quality and Accountability for Patients Act, 2017.
Bill 160 introduces three new pieces of health care legislation and amends an additional seven. The intended purpose is to support Ontario’s Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care and to ensure that patients continue to receive quality and accountable health care services.
The ten laws that are affected are:
• Health Sector Payment Transparency Act, 2017
• Medical Radiation and Imaging Technology Act, 2017
• Oversight of Health Facilities and Devices Act, 2017
• Excellent Care for All Act, 2010
• Retirement Homes Act, 2010
• Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007
• Health Protection and Promotion Act, 1990
• Ambulance Act, 1990
• Ontario Drug Benefit Act, 1990
• Ontario Mental Health Foundation Act, 1990
In our submission, we expressed concern that the proposed changes governing health care services do not include provisions that the IPC considers necessary to protect the privacy of Ontarians.
Of particular concern is the exclusion of the Patient Ombudsman’s investigative records from the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). This exclusion would have significant consequences for patients, health care organizations and the broader public when dealing with that office. Of particular note:
• Patients would not be able to access their own records of information obtained by or prepared by the Patient Ombudsman in an investigation
• Existing privacy protections would no longer apply to Patient Ombudsman investigations
• Individuals would not be able to access information used by the Patient Ombudsman to form important recommendations
The IPC proposes the removal of the exclusion from FIPPA that would apply to records that contain information obtained or prepared by the Patient Ombudsman in the course of conducting an investigation.
The IPC also recommends the following amendments to Bill 160:
• Limit the collection, use and disclosure of personal information and personal health information to that which is reasonably necessary for the purposes articulated
• Include requirements that information be kept confidential
• Include provisions that allow a court to protect personal health information in documents or materials filed with the court in relation to the prosecution of offences