Disclosure of health information to be allowed in some circumstances

Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen, pictured speaking to the media at a September 2018 press conference. Winnipeg Sun/Chris Procaylo/stf

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The province of Manitoba introduced legislation that would allow disclosure of personal health information in some circumstances.
The changes to legislation passed second reading and will head to the committee stage.
Health Minister and Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen said the changes will better protect people who could pose a danger to themselves.
“In Manitoba, we had a situation before where our privacy laws were actually preventing health care providers from being able to intervene in situations where they felt someone being discharged could be a danger to themselves or others,” he said. “They felt like the sea of rules constrained them.”
Friesen said current rules only allow for sharing of personal health information if “their is evidence of a risk of serious and immediate harm”.
In planning the new legislation, Friesen said they examined what is done in other provinces.
“We said it’s time to rebalance this,” he said. “Yes we take the protection of people’s personal health information seriously, however we’ve got to create some common sense…”
Friesen said they will ensure training is in place, and RHAs will come up with guidelines for when and how information is shared with others. “The department of health will review those plans and make sure they are consistent, no matter where you are in Manitoba and that they are applied consistently,” he said.
The amendment to The Personal Health Information Act (PHIA) would allow trustees of personal health information to disclose an individual’s medical records without consent to caregivers, loved ones or support people if they believe doing so reduces the risk of serious harm being done to the health or safety of that person or anyone else. Trustees include health-care professionals, as well as health facilities, agencies and public bodies that collect or maintain personal health information.
The Mental Health Act would also be amended to allow disclosure of information from a patient’s clinical record in a psychiatric facility without consent. The disclosure would only be made if the facility’s medical director had reason to believe it necessary to reduce the risk of serious harm to the mental or physical health or safety of the patient or another person.
“These common-sense changes to legislation successfully weighs the health and well-being of individuals against the importance of safeguarding their personal health information,” Friesen said.
The Virgo report, which outlined a mental health and addictions strategy for Manitoba, was supportive of improving practices to facilitate the sharing of information with family members and loved ones.
The minister said a review of PHIA legislation is currently underway, noting further amendments may be considered and introduced in 2019.