Horizon, Vitalité block access to health statistics
Health authorities say disclosing C. difficile and MRSA data would violate privacy rules
The Horizon Health Network and Vitalité Health Network have both refused to publicly disclose how many cases of C. difficile and MRSA were discovered in their facilities.
CBC News requested the information under the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act in January, but both health authorities sent formal rejection notices in the last week.
The decisions of the two health authorities have been appealed to the Office of the Access to Information and Privacy Commissioner.
The original request was made to the Department of Health in January after the Dr. Georges-L-Dumont University Hospital underwent a thorough cleaning following a spike in C. difficile infections. The extent of the increase in C. difficile cases is not known because the health authority is refusing to disclose how many cases were found in the Moncton hospital.
On Jan. 18, Luc Foulem, a spokesperson for the Vitalité Health Network, said C. difficile statistics were tracked and forwarded to the Department of Health, but could not be released to the public.
"We do have a weekly set of data that is calculated and sent forth to the public health department," Foulem said in an interview.
CBC News asked the Department of Health to release those weekly reports for the last 12 months. The department forwarded the request to the health authorities.
Vitalité forwarded a blank version of a document called the Reportable Diseases and Events Notification Form.
Mireille Lanouette, the authority’s chief information and privacy officer, said the form for each positive test would include personal information and "is not considered a statistical report."
Horizon, meanwhile, offered a similar response but drew into question the public comments made by the province’s other health authority.
"Vitalité Health Network was contacted for clarification regarding the weekly report that was referenced in the news article. Vitalité [information co-ordinator] confirmed that a weekly report was not provided to the Department of Health," the Horizon document said.
Horizon also provided the reportable diseases form and refused to disclose any additional information saying it would be "an unreasonable invasion of the third party’s privacy."
Officials for the Vitalité and Horizon health authorities said they had concerns about releasing the health data because of how it would be use and interpreted.
While the New Brunswick health authorities are blocking public access to these statistics, other provinces make similar data available on websites.
Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, for example, keeps a monthly tally of cases of C. difficile available on its website.
with files from the CBC's Jennifer Choi