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Recommendations Supported to Improve Protection of Health Information

Released on April 10, 2014

The provincial government supports recommendations to help improve enforcement of trustees’ responsibilities to protect personal health information.  Trustees are individuals and organizations that have personal health information under their custody and control.

The Health Records Protection Working Group recently submitted their report which includes recommended changes to The Health Information Protection Act (HIPA) to help enforce trustees’ responsibilities under the Act, to address possible gaps in the legislation, and to put a system in place to deal with the discovery of abandoned records.

“We take seriously the protection of privacy of the personal health information of Saskatchewan residents,” Health Minister Dustin Duncan said.  “I want to thank the working group for their many hours of work, and for the recommendations they put forward to ensure patient records are kept secure and confidential.”

“I’m pleased that steps are being taken to better secure patient records,” Justice Minister and Attorney General Gordon Wyant said.  “There is currently a gap in the legislation and these proposed amendments will help ensure that health records are properly protected in our province.”

The working group recommended that HIPA be amended to address the following areas:
  • Strict liability offence:  If records are found abandoned, the trustee responsible for the records would need to show they took all reasonable steps to prevent the abandonment.  Sometimes called the “reverse onus” clause, this change will forgo a need to prove the trustee intended to abandon the records.
  • Individual offence for willful disclosure of personal information:  Making it clear that HIPA offences for intentional disclosure of personal health information apply not only to trustees, but to individuals who are employees of trustees.
  • Snooping offence:  A specific offence be established for inappropriate use of personal health information by employees who access information without a need for that information.
  • Take control of abandoned records:  A specific provision be added to HIPA for a system to be put in place to quickly respond to a discovery of abandoned records and to take control of the records.  
 “I support these recommendations and I intend to seek approval to bring forward the legislative amendments,” Duncan said.  “These changes will help strengthen the protection of personal health records and increase the accountability of trustees and employees in protecting those records.”

The government will examine the remaining recommendations made by the Health Records Protection Working Group, including creating a single repository for abandoned records, making private record storage solutions available and clarifying the definition of “trustee” for physician practice arrangements.

The Health Records Protection Working Group was formed in 2012 after a large number of medical records were found abandoned in a Regina dumpster.  

The working group included members from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Saskatchewan Medical Association, College of Pharmacists, Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association, a patient representative, and the Ministries of Justice and Health. 

The complete report and additional information are available at www.saskatchewan.ca/hipa.

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For more information, contact:

Tyler McMurchy
Health
Regina
Phone: 306-787-4083
Email: tmcmurchy@health.gov.sk.ca

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