A Thunder Bay woman says she's shocked by the high cost of accessing her own medical file after her family doctor closed his practice late last year.
To get her health records, Wendy Doran had to call a private medical registry that now holds her file. When she says she was told there would be a fee of more than $600 to access them, she couldn't believe it.
'We try to work with the patient.'—Elan Eisen, president of RSRS
"I was just dumbfounded," she said.
"I couldn't believe I would have to pay for my own medical records. [I] can't afford something like that. We're on a fixed income. I can imagine what other people are like as well."
Doran says the company offered to reduce the fee by about $100, but she said the cost will still be too much of a hardship.
The president of RSRS, the company that holds the records, said the company wants to ensure all patients can access their records.
"If any patient ever has an issue with the fee … they're simply supposed to tell us," Elan Eisen said. "In fact we ask if we sense there's hesitation … we try to work with the patient."
He added the company has never withheld medical records from a patient because of his or her ability to pay.
"We're here to facilitate continuity of care," Eisen said.
"Every patient should have a copy of their medical record. That's our mandate here. Yes there is a fee. But our job is to make sure the patient get their records."
Ministry of Health does not control costs
Eisen noted there are guidelines for the fees that are set by provincial medical associations and the privacy commissioner.
A spokesperson with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care said it does not control the costs associated with people accessing their personal health records.
In an email, media relations co-ordinator David Jensen told CBC News that health information custodians, such as physicians, are permitted to charge a fee for access or copies that does not exceed "the amount of reasonable cost recovery, if no amount is prescribed under the [Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004]."
Many health information custodians have established their own policies for charging fees, he said.
Those who have questions around the amount being charged, should contact the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, which regulates the charges for uninsured services such as accessing personal information, Jensen said. People can also contact PHIPPA which investigates excessive amounts being charged for accessing personal information.