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.


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