New Brunswick's health minister has promised to pass legislation to protect privacy under a new electronic health-record system— but stopped short of guaranteeing oversight by an independentprivacy commissioner, asrecommended by a committee.

The province plans to set up a one-patient, one-record electronic system by 2009 to streamline hospital access on patients' records. It will allow doctors and pharmacists to collect and share patients' health information but has caused some to raise questions about privacy concerns.

Health Minister Mike Murphy told a news conference in Fredericton on Wednesday that new legislation will be introduced in the spring to ensure there are rules to protect the use of those files.

"Part of what they need to see on their files is not just what it says about their medical condition and treatments they received, but who has seen their file, when and for what reason," Murphy said.

The legislation will set standards on who has access to the information and under what circumstances, he said.

He said patients should have access to their health information and the ability to ask for corrections.

However, he also said patients won't be allowed the same authority when it comes to prescription drug records because abuse of the medications has become a serious problem.

"We can't expect that those who may have fraud intent that they should be given permission to sign a waiver saying they don't want information released," Murphy said. "I mean if we do that it negates the whole purpose of the prescription drug monitoring program."

Task force report urgednew privacy commissioner

Earlier in the day, the government-appointedTask Force on Personal Health Informationreleasedits final report with31 recommendations, including that the provincecreate uniform guidelines for the collection of personal health information.

Another key recommendation was that the government appoint an independent privacy commissioner to enforce the rules enshrined in that legislation.

Ombudsman Bernard Richard currently also serves as the province's privacy commissioner.

The task force reportalso suggests giving patients the ability to prevent the disclosure of specific information under some circumstances

Murphy didn't say whether the upcoming legislation would in fact create a separate position to deal exclusively with health records and right-to-information requests.

With files from the Canadian Press