Information commissioner denied access to Health PEI report

Health PEI wants to take the Island's Information and Privacy Commissioner to court to settle a dispute over an internal report which the government agency is refusing to let the commissioner see.

Health PEI asking Supreme Court to rule on whether it has to obey commissioner's order

According to Health P.E.I., the report the information commissioner is requesting is protected under the Island's Health Services Act. (CBC)

Health PEI wants to take the Island's information and privacy commissioner to court to settle a dispute over an internal report which the government agency is refusing to let the commissioner see. 

Commissioner Karen Rose issued an order in April, insisting Health PEI hand her the report on the basis that she "has the power to compel the public body to produce the record at issue."

In response, Health PEI filed an application for a judicial review in P.E.I. Supreme Court, arguing the commissioner "does not have the jurisdiction or authority to inspect or review" the specific information she's ordered the agency produce.

According to the information commissioner, the initial request for Health P.E.I.'s internal report was made by someone being interviewed as part of an investigation into a complaint at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. (CBC )

Report surrounds complaint at QEH 

According to the commissioner's order, the initial request for the report came from an applicant who was interviewed as part of an investigation into a complaint at Charlottetown's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The commissioner says the applicant requested "access to a secondary report about systemic issues." However, Health PEI denied that request, saying the report was a "quality improvement report," and that under P.E.I.'s Health Services Act, the information in the report was confidential.   

According to Health PEI's website, such reports are written up after concerns about patient care are raised and then investigated by a quality improvement committee.  

"The committee meets with individuals involved, selected experts, and others who can contribute to the analysis of the situation," the website reads.

"To support a culture of learning and openness, conversations that are part of the review are confidential so that those involved are free to have discussion without fear that the information will be used against them."

The applicant argued the report in question was not authored by the quality improvement committee, but rather an external investigator raising "systemic concerns."

P.E.I. Information and Privacy Commissioner Karen Rose says she 'has the power to compel [Health PEI] to produce the record at issue.' (CBC)

No review without seeing report 

The commissioner agreed to review the case, and asked Health PEI to provide her with a copy of the report. Rose said she can't "assess whether it is quality improvement information" without actually seeing the report. 

But Health PEI denied Rose's request, arguing that under the Health Services Act, not even the commissioner has the right to access quality improvement information.

The commissioner responded by issuing an official order to Health PEI, compelling the agency to provide her with a copy of the report.  

In the order, Rose says P.E.I.'s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP) gives her the "authority to order production of records." 

She adds that the only way she can carry out her "legislated duty to independently review a public body's decision" in this case, is by reading Health PEI's report. 

Health PEI standing by legislation 

But Health PEI has refused to follow that order, instead asking for the judicial review.

"Our health care legislation provides for a confidential review process that examines the health system and recommends quality improvements that can be made to health services provided to Islanders," Health PEI said in a statement issued Friday afternoon.

"Recently, the Privacy Commissioner made a decision about the confidentiality of this process.  As a result Health PEI has asked the Supreme Court of PEI to provide direction on this."

The commissioner has until June 19 to file a response in Supreme Court. At this point, the court hasn't ruled on if or when it will hear the case. 

Neither the information commissioner nor Health PEI agreed to an interview.