Health min­istry un­der fire for de­lays in fill­ing info re­quests

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY + REGION - THIA JAMES

The pro­vin­cial Min­istry of Health says it can’t pro­vide re­sponses to ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and pri­vacy re­quests within the legally man­dated time frame be­cause of staff short­ages and heavy work­loads.

In a Nov. 1 re­port, Saskatchewan In­for­ma­tion and Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner Ron Kruzeniski rec­om­mended the min­istry add as many re­sources as nec­es­sary af­ter re­ceiv­ing a com­plaint from a woman who re­quested records and did not re­ceive them for five months.

Af­ter four months of wait­ing, she turned to Kruzeniski’s of­fice and he no­ti­fied the min­istry of his in­tent to con­duct a re­view. Within a month, four records were sent to her.

Un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion and Pro­tec­tion of Pri­vacy Act, a gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tion must pro­vide writ­ten no­tice it will ei­ther re­lease records or refuse to do so, within 30 days of re­ceiv­ing the re­quest. It can in­form the ap­pli­cant it’s ex­tend­ing the re­sponse pe­riod by a max­i­mum of 30 days af­ter that.

“While I un­der­stand the dif­fi­culty that staffing short­ages can cre­ate, my of­fice has is­sued 16 re­view re­ports since 2014 where Health did not meet the leg­is­lated time­lines,” Kruzeniski wrote.

In an emailed state­ment, the health min­istry said the most re­cent re­port refers to a late re­sponse for a re­quest re­ceived in Novem­ber 2017, when it was un­der­go­ing staffing turnover and changes. Since March, the min­istry’s Health In­for­ma­tion and Pri­vacy Of­fice has filled three an­a­lyst po­si­tions and one ad­min­is­tra­tive po­si­tion; the unit of five staff also has a di­rec­tor.

For the 2017-2018 fis­cal year, the health min­istry car­ried for­ward 13 FOIP re­quests, re­ceived a fur­ther 69 and pro­cessed 65. It de­nied ac­cess in two cases, granted ac­cess in 25 cases and par­tially granted in­for­ma­tion for 30 re­quests.

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