A privacy expert says health-care workers, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and even Health Minister Sharon Blady don't understand what Manitoba's Personal Health Information Act (PHIA) actually says.
Reid Bricker went missing the morning of Oct. 24, after he was released from the Health Sciences Centre. Bricker was involuntarily brought to the hospital on Oct. 23 by police, following a suicide attempt — his third in 10 days.
When his family tried to get information about Bricker they were told PHIA wouldn't allow for the disclosure of information without consent from the individual.
On Friday, Blady said the province will review hospital protocols and laws around releasing patient information under PHIA in response to Bricker's disappearance.
But Michael Markwick, the president of B.C.'s Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, says Manitoba's PHIA legislation already contains an exception that should have applied in Bricker's case.
Section 22 of the act says "a trustee may disclose personal health information without the consent of the individual the information is about ... if the trustee reasonably believes that the disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and immediate threat to the health or safety of the individual the information is about."
'It's not just the hospital staff. It's all the way up the chain to the minister herself.' - Michael Markwick
"There is actually nothing in that law that would have prevented the hospital from sharing the records," Markwick said.
Lori Lamont, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's vice president of interprofessional practices, said she couldn't comment on Reid Bricker directly, but noted "that people are assessed as to the degree of risk to themselves or to others, and based on that decision, there would be a decision made as to whether information could be shared."
Lamont added that "it would also depend on whether the individual had or had not explicitly indicated to us whether they wanted information shared."
Markwick said that a man who had three times attempted suicides should have met the WRHA's test for an immediate risk, and that "the legislation is very clear that the information can be shared even without the consent of the individual."
'It's not just the hospital staff'
Markwick also said that he is "quite puzzled by the interpretation that the hospital has placed on[PHIA]" and is troubled by the lack of understanding of the legislation at all levels.
"It's not just the hospital staff. It's all the way up the chain to the minister herself," Markwick said.
Bonnie Bricker, Reid Bricker's mom, said she's angry that the legislation allowed for the release of information about her son this whole time, despite what they've been told.
"They are negligent, or they need to be re-educated about what PHIA actually says," Bonnie said.
"Somewhere, something broke ... and my son is a victim of that."
In an interview Monday, Minister Blady reiterated that she is consulting with experts about Manitoba's PHIA legislation.
"I would like to think that if my life, or the life of someone I loved, was at risk because of a mental health situation, that the utmost would be done to protect my life and my well-being."