A plan by the Saskatoon Health Region to seek donations from former patients is being criticized as a violation of privacy.

MLA Cam Broten, the health critic for the opposition NDP in the provincial legislature, says the region's Grateful Patient Program goes against the principle of a publicly funded health system.

"Saskatchewan taxpayers pay taxes for a reason: to have a publicly funded health care system," Broten said Wednesday. "If individuals choose to make donations, that's great, to support the system. But it should be on an opt-in basis."

Broten's concerns were echoed by Gary Dickson, Saskatchewan privacy commissioner, who wrote a report in 2010 that recommended patients should choose to be on a fund-raising list by opting-in.

Dickson repeated his views, but noted the new program does involve the health region, which must ensure privacy laws are followed.

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Saskatchewan's Privacy Commissioner, Gary Dickson, says it would be better if a fund-raising program had an opt-in provision. (CBC)

He said that is better than having patient files go to a fund-raising foundation.

"People can complain to [my office] if they think something improper has happened," Dickson said. "Those kinds of protection for the individual don't exist when the information goes to a foundation."

Dickson added he will be closely watching the health region's next moves.

With files from CBC's Stefani Langenegger