Late last year, following contracting-out scandals at E-health, the LHINs, and the hospitals, the provincial government brought in the
nder Schedule 15 of Bill 173, information and records provided to or prepared by a hospital committee regarding assessment of quality of care would be exempted from public access to information. The terms of the exemption were broad and ill-defined.
Patient advocates and the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) sprung into action and pressed for change.
Even with the very short notice provided by the government, more than a dozen groups appeared at the legislative hearings concerning the Bill to ask the members of the legislature not to pass Schedule 15.
Subsequently, government members introduced an amendment, but little or no progress was evident. Here's how the OHC responded:
“The government’s amendment allows hospital executives to make some documents secret, by simply stamping “confidential” on them or retroactively suggesting that the records were intended to be private,” said Cybele Sack of ImPatient for Change, a patient advocacy group. “Our freedom of information laws are meant to increase transparency and this amendment undermines that spirit.”....
“The government’s proposal to extend hospital secrecy significantly undermines the government’s own Public Sector Accountability Act,” (OHC Director, Natalie Mehra) added. “It puts the onus on patients and the public to undertake lengthy and complex appeals processes to justify seeking information from hospitals. It is entirely the wrong way around. Hospitals should have to show cause to keep information secret. They are publicly-funded institutions upon which every Ontarian relies for care. They should be more publicly accountable, not less.”
We need better access to hospital information. As trade unionists we have experienced considerable difficulty getting legitimate information from the hospitals.
The government told us its Broader Public Sector Accountability Act would provide better access. Now, they have to make good on that promise and develop a better process.
The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs will vote on amendments this Thursday morning May 5 at 9 am, after which Bill 173 will go to the Ontario Legislature for final passage.