Saturday, April 9, 2011

Freedom of information regarding Ontario hospitals and physicians

Twitter is a great place to find healthcare information. While being limited to 140 characters, it is succinct. I found out what was happening to our privacy laws in Ontario healthcare.

I saw a tweet:

 ImPatient for Change 
buried on pg31 of 146-pg budget, the govt has incl an amendment that will block public access to freedom of information requests in hospitals

Meantime, Deb Matthews, Minister of Health sent out a tweet speaking about listening to the Japanese ambassador.
I responded:
Wonder if Japan has excluded public access 2 hospital qual. info? Buried: Bill 173 s.15 - Amendment to FIPPA @

Ontarians are protected by both FIPPA and PHIPPA. I have written about these previously.
The Ontario Liberal government has created the
Public sector accountability act. Bill 122
Many of us believe that hospitals and physicians must be accountable.
Mastectomy cases, for example, hit the news:

The London, Ontario, area had this terrible physician error. This is what we need to know about. Physician error. Hospital error. This is the information that Healthcare Insurance Reciprocal of Canada (HIROC- Canada’s 'leading provider of healthcare liability insurance') doesn't want you to know about.

What is the Anti-Freedom of Information Act amendment? CBC Radio Windsor interviewed me about it this morning:
Has the Provincial Government back-tracked on promises of transparency and accountability from our hospitals?Listen (runs 9:42)
Cybele Sack made a presentation. She is a journalist with her own hospital horror story about an indiagnosed appendicitis.  She went to the Bill 122 committee hearings. She observed hospital and healthcare lobbyists talking to the government about adding this amendment back into to the bill, despite having it removed by nurses last year.

Access to information and hospitals are not related to a budget. Why are they buried there? To prevent the public from getting it.

Ms. Sack said,
Yesterday, the Ontario Health Association asked your committee to keep medical error private, to exclude quality-of-care information from freedom-of-information and anti-lobbying legislation. The OHA says this specific exclusion clause will encourage doctors to come forward, because doctors will be reluctant to admit to error if they might be vulnerable to public embarrassment and accusation. But the OHA is not asking for names to be stripped; they’re asking that the information not be made public at all. The OHA wants to extend the privacy in QCIPA without the strict parameters, so that doctors and hospitals won’t be held liable for any information divulged during discussion about patient safety issues, no matter the context.

Sack explained her concerns to the Queen’s Park committee:
“According to a study funded by Health Canada, more Canadians are dying from preventable adverse events in hospitals than from breast cancer, motor vehicle accidents and HIV combined. We believe that these injuries and deaths are happening because we lack a culture of accountability and transparency.”
But the insurance company (HIROC)  insists the opposite is true — transparency will lead to more medical mistakes.
In response to Ms. Sack...Mme France GĂ©linas:
I can tell you that you are not the only one who spoke against taking exemptions to FOI. When the RNAO—that’s the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario—was here yesterday, I asked them, what did they think about excluding the quality element from FOI? And they spoke in exactly the same language you did.
In the fall, during Bill 122 committee hearings...
On the end of one day, when few were present, Healthcare Insurance Reciprocal of Canada was seen making a presentation. Presented an amendment, a coordinated amendment adopted by the Liberals.
Nurses, Ontario Health Coalition fought this amendment. But, it has come back. Hospital lobbyists using taxpayers funds.

Exclusions: everything with hospital quality information.
Information provided to or prepared for a hospital accountability.

This one line in the Ontario budget means that Quality of Care Information Protection Act, 2004,QCIPA 
Quality of care information protection act is excluded from FIPPA.

Hospitals need a safe place to discuss medical errors, without compromising patient privacy.
If we're going to have a great system, we need one that is accountable and transparent.
Transparency is allowing us to put pressure on the government to improve.
If a patient, survivor of medical error, how many other people had this same error?

Hospitals CEO can tell nurses to cut down on the visits to bedside. They don't have to tell anyone. This is hospital quality information. Records prepared by a hospital committee need to be private but accessible.

Questions for the hospital related to quality of care. They are important. Not specific details, but numerical data that shows issues, such as the case of the pathologist (Charles Smith) who put many parents in jail, through errors in his work and his testimony. If we didn't have this kind of information available to us, Ontarians would not have known what he was up to.

 Hospital and physician insurance companies don't want us to know how many times particular hospitals or doctors screw up. Survivors of medical errors need their stories told. Not to fulfill the 'if it bleeds it leads', but to ensure that the public knows what is going on and to prevent what happened in London, Ontario, and in the east. If the public knows that a particular doctor is repeatedly making errors, such as the shameful case of the

Apparently, the Minister of Health, Deb Matthews, has admitted that the hospitals lobbies to have this item to protect them. This violates my rights as a consumer to see what is really going on in the hospitals.

But a Queen’s Park committee soon heard from the Ontario Hospital Association, the Ontario Medical Association and Canada’s largest insurer, the Healthcare Insurance Reciprocal of Canada — all warning public scrutiny would cause doctors and nurses to look the other way rather than report mistakes.

More Reading...

Liberals quietly push hospital secrecy bill

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