Info and privacy commissioner recommends health ministry add resources to respond to queries

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 that it will either release records or refuse to do so, within 30 days of receiving the request. It can inform the applicant that 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 between late 2017 and early 2018. 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, collecting $2,398.50 in fees while making estimates for $16,824.

According to the ministry, 90 per cent of requests were processed within legislated timelines.



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