McGuinty government reverses direction on hospital transparency

If you thought the recent provincial budget bill was about how Ontario allocates public resources, you may be in for a surprise.

After giving notice last fall that Ontario hospitals would finally be opened to Freedom of Information requests, the McGuinty government is backpedalling with an amendment to its budget bill that would restrict access to all information about hospital quality.

Freedom of Information already protects the personal information of patients.

This broadly worded amendment to the budget Act would allow a hospital to refuse disclosure of “information provided to, or records prepared by, a hospital committee for the purposes of evaluating the quality of health care and directly related programs and services provided by the hospital.”

The amendment is being pushed for a second time by the Ontario Hospital Association, the Ontario Medical Association and the Healthcare Insurance Reciprocal of Canada (Canada’s largest malpractice insurance company). The organizations were unsuccessful in getting a similar amendment last year under Bill 122 – Broader Public Sector Accountability Act.

The organizations are arguing that doctors will be less likely to disclose their mistakes if they might be subject to embarrassment and accusation.

Polly Stevens, VP of HIROC, told the London Free Press “we had to stop this naming, shaming and blaming.”

However, the organizations are not asking that doctors’ names be removed from the reports – instead they want all information kept secret.

In her testimony on Bill 122, Stevens said she didn’t want the public to find answers to questions such as “do you have a fever protocol for pediatrics? Do you have physicians to personally see patients before they’re discharged.”

Bill 173 (the budget bill) will go to a one-day hearing before the Finance and Economic Affairs Committee on April 21st.

A group calling itself “Impatient4 change” is calling for action to pressure the McGuinty government to drop this amendment.

They ask that you spread the word (hit our share button below), contact members of the government’s Finance and Economic Affairs Committee asking them how they will vote, and ask to be able to testify on April 21st before the Committee.

Members of the Finance & Economic Affairs Committee:

Leeanna Pendergast (Kitchener), 416-325-3581, 519-571-3276,
Laura Albanese (York) 416-243-7984,
Bob Delaney (Mississauga) 416-325-0161, 905-569-1643,
Kevin Flynn (Oakville), 416-325-7215, 905-827-5141,
Helena Jaczek (Markham), 905-294-4931,
Pat Hoy (Chatham) – 416-325-9099, 519-351-0510,

Norm Miller
(Parry Sound), 416-325-1012, 705-645-8538,
Toby Barrett (Haldimand) – 416-325-8404, 519-428-0446,

Peter Tabuns
(TO Danforth) 416-325-3250, 416-461-0223,

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