Ontario introduces “hospital secrecy clause”

The Ontario government plans to exempt hospitals from responding to freedom-of-information requests related to quality of care. It contends that this will allow more open discussion of medical errors. Critics say, however, that a “hospital secrecy clause” is completely unjustified. “This clause excludes any quality information produced for or by a committee in a hospital from public access,” says Natalie Mehra, of the Ontario Health Coalition, a patient advocacy group. “Information that is in the interest of the public, of physicians and of health professionals could be denied under this and very likely will be denied.” The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), among other health organisations, also showed concern at the government’s decision. “ONA believes that information about quality of care should be accessible to people,” Vicki McKenna, from the organisation, told the Canadian Medical Association.

The Ontario Medical Association supports the exemption on the basis that it will allow health professionals to have frank discussions on quality of care without fearing future repercussions. "Improvements in patient safety come most quickly when physicians, nurses, and other health professionals feel they can raise and discuss issues of quality and patient safety without being ‘blamed or shamed’,” Dr Stewart Kennedy, the association’s president, wrote in a statement released to reporters. “It’s unfortunate that some have chosen rhetoric and politics, over fact, on this important and sensitive issue.” ~ Canadian Medical Association News, Jun 14

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