Wednesday, May 12, 2010


On the surface, the latest developments in the Wall government's patient fund-raising scheme might seem to be positive ones. But on a closer look, they actually suggest both that the Wall government has no clue what it's actually doing, and that it's again misleading the province as to the effect of its actions.

From CBC:
Saskatchewan's health minister says he won't share patient information with hospital fundraising foundations before he can tell patients how to opt out.

The provincial government's plan to amend privacy rules in order to allow the names and addresses of recent hospital patients to be used for fundraising has drawn criticism from the province's privacy commissioner and the NDP.

The amendment, which was approved in April, came into effect this month.

Health Minister Don McMorris now says the government won't release any information until it determines how people who don't want to participate can opt out.
Premier Brad Wall recently said that people who wanted to opt out could contact McMorris's office directly.

But McMorris said that won't work.

"There are some [people] that feel comfortable opting out when they're in the hospital, or two months after, some may want to opt out before. Those are the details that are being worked out between the ministry and the health regions," he said.

"We're not rushing into this at all because we want to make sure that we've thought of all the options."
To start with, it's remarkable that Wall ever suggested that members of the public try to create their own opt-out process through McMorris' office. But for the same reason why that supposed solution wouldn't work, there's little reason to think McMorris' supposed moratorium actually means anything.

To see why, take a look at who's actually entitled to use or disclose patient information under the Sask Party's amendment to the Health Information Protection Regulations (section 7.1). The "designated trustees" actually covered by the section are the regional health authorities and their affiliate care providers, not the Ministry of Health or any other provincial body. And nothing in the provision requires further provincial approval for the disclosure of information once the provision is in force.

In other words, McMorris can't actually speak on behalf of the bodies who have the ability to use or disclose personal health information for fund-raising purposes. And given the Sask Party's track record of not bothering to consult with anybody before making drastic changes, it's anybody's guess as to whether or not the province's health regions and affiliates will see themselves as having to follow a non-binding ministerial statement that contradicts a substantive regulatory change.

Likewise, the requirement for an opt-out is at the trustee level, not the provincial level - which is why Wall's proposal to have concerned patients send their opt-out requests to McMorris' office was off base. But the problem applies equally to McMorris' statement that the provincial government will decide what opt-out process to use: the regulation allows the designated trustees to decide what type of process to follow, such that the province doesn't have any formal role in "(determining) how people who don't want to participate can opt out".

To sum up, then, the Sask Party has followed up its initial failure to consult with a series of suggestions and promises that make no sense based on the regulation it's already proclaimed. And that can hardly offer any reassurance for patients already concerned that the Wall government doesn't take their privacy seriously.

(Edit: fixed wording, typo.)

No comments:

Post a Comment