Sudbury news: Woman wins legal battle for late father’s health records

A Sudbury woman has the right to access her late father’s health records, Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner has ruled.

The battle began not long after her father died while a resident at the Pioneer Manor Long-Term Care Home in Greater Sudbury.

After his death, his daughter asked the LTC home for access to all of her father’s health records. She was acting on behalf of her mother, who was the trustee of the estate.

“The request was for access to all of the deceased individual’s records relating to two identified incidents, including witness statements and RN/RPN notes,” said the decision from the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC).

She was seeking information on two interactions her father had with staff at Pioneer Manor before his death.

“The records consist of emails, a letter of concern from the complainant, meeting notes, notes regarding an incident, critical incident reports, investigation notes, the deceased’s admission record …” the decision said.

But her request was eventually rejected, with Pioneer Manor –the ‘custodian’ of the records — arguing that some of the data didn’t qualify as personal health information.

“In particular, the custodian submits that the information in these records relates primarily to one or more employees in response to a concern raised by the complainant,” the IPC said in its decision.

Under the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIBA), a person has a right to all of their health records. However, since Pioneer Manor is city owned, it’s also covered by the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

That act prohibits the city from releasing confidential information about employees. In its submissions, the city said the MFIPPA took precedence and that the IPC didn’t have jurisdiction in this case.

But in her decision, adjudicator Cathy Hamilton ruled that previous decisions have said that in cases where both statutes apply, the Personal Health Information Protection Act takes precedence.

Therefore the man’s daughter, acting as trustee on her mother’s behalf, has a right to that information.

“It is well established that an authorized substitute decision maker, such as an estate trustee, has a right of access to the personal health information of the relevant deceased individual,” the decision said.

The city must make a new decision by Oct. 20 and inform the IPC in writing.

Read the full decision here.


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