Ontario’s new Patient Ombudsman

Recently here at DDO we were discussing the role and powers of the Patient Ombudsman. The Patient Ombudsman has jurisdiction to resolve complaints about health service organizations such as public hospitals, long-term care facilities, and certain services provided by the LHINs.

The Patient Ombudsman is an office of last resort – so people having complaints must first explore resolution directly with their health service organization. When a complaint is filed, the Patient Ombudsman will ensure that no other body has jurisdiction over the complaint and, with patient consent, will try to facilitate resolution by contacting the health sector organization.

The Patient Ombudsman may investigate complaints where a facilitated resolution is unsuccessful. Health sector organizations such as hospitals and long-term care homes will be well placed to respond to inquiries from the Patient Ombudsman if their internal processes for addressing complaints are robust, thorough, and comprehensive.

For more information about the Patient Ombudsman, for help in crafting a robust complaint process, or for help in responding to an inquiry from the PO, please contact me at spalter@ddohealthlaw.com.

The Genetic Non-Discrimination Act: Bill S-201

Genetic information can reveal very sensitive and personal information about an individual and his/her family. The federal Genetic Non-Discrimination Act (Bill S-201) received Royal Assent in the Senate on May 4, 2017.

The Bill gives control to Canadians over the use of their genetic test results by banning anyone from requiring an individual to undergo genetic testing, or from disclosing the results of a genetic test, as a condition of entering into or continuing a contract; or as a condition of providing goods or services to that individual.  The Bill makes amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the ground of genetic characteristics and amends the Canada Labour Code to protect employees from being required (by their employers) to either undergo genetic testing or disclose the results of such testing. Violation of the prohibition is an offence that can result in substantial fines, imprisonment or both.

The prohibition against requiring disclosure of genetic test results does not apply to a physician, pharmacist or other health care practitioner (in respect of individuals to whom they are providing health services) or to researchers conducting medical, scientific or pharmaceutical research (in respect of research participants).

Bill S-201 would prevent insurance companies from requesting disclosure of genetic test results, received either in a therapeutic or research context, in order to assess actuarial risk. The first-reading version of the Bill exempted high value insurance contracts from the prohibition if the province enacted a provision expressly permitting an insurer to require a person to disclose any existing genetic test results as a condition of entering into or continuing a contract of insurance. That clause did not appear in the final version of the Bill.

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) announced, on November 11, 2016, a commitment from insurers to refrain from collecting or using any genetic test results for new applications for life insurance policies up to $250,000, effective January 1, 2018. As a result, according to the CLHIA, more than 85% of applications for life insurance would not require any disclosure of genetic test results[1]. This is a higher policy amount than was included in the exemption for insurance contracts ($1,000,000) that appeared in the first version of Bill S-201. Even with this commitment, insurers would not be permitted to require disclosure of genetic test results for higher value policies under Bill S-201.

However, there is concern that the Bill intrudes upon the provinces’ jurisdiction over insurance.  In the Senate debates of April 4, 2017, Senator Frum noted that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice will be referring the Bill to the Supreme Court of Canada, on the matter of constitutionality, after it receives Royal Assent[2].

The meaning of “personal information” under Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) was also at issue in the first version of the Bill. When the Bill was introduced, it included amendments to PIPEDA to define personal information to include “personal health information, such as information derived from genetic testing”.  However, David Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, noted that the current definition of personal information in PIPEDA is broad enough to include information derived from genetic testing, and that including such information as an example of personal health information could narrow the definition of personal health information and also limit information derived from genetic tests to the health care context, thereby excluding information from genetic testing conducted for other purposes, such as paternity, ancestry and others. Subsequently, the Bill was amended at third reading in the Senate to remove the amendments to both PIPEDA and the Privacy Act.

[1] See https://www.clhia.ca/domino/html/clhia/clhia_lp4w_lnd_webstation.nsf/page/07AC1F9D1616B528852580A4006D544E

 

[2] See https://sencanada.ca/en/Content/Sen/chamber/421/debates/108db_2017-04-04-e#31.

 

MOHLTC seeks feedback on proposed QCIPA regulations

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has issued proposed regulations under the Quality of Care Information Protection Act.

These regulations would:

  • add long-term care homes and laboratories and specimen collection centres as health facilities.  Health facilities can establish Quality of Care Committees that enable them to hold shielded discussions about quality of care issues.
  • require all health facilities to have written terms of reference for their Quality of Care Committee that are available to the public.

See the regulations at:

http://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view.do?postingId=22134&language=en

Comments are due by November 28th.

 

 

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