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Health minister 'fundamentally disagrees' with commissioner's privacy worries

British Columbia Health Minister Kevin Falcon dismissed privacy concerns that acting Information and Privacy Commissioner Paul Fraser last week raised about changes to provincial health laws.

“In this case we just fundamentally disagree with the privacy commissioner,” said Falcon. “In terms of our stewardship and ability to manage the health care system, we are going to make sure we can do that. That is no different than how we've operated for decades in British Columbia.”

Introduced earlier in April, Bill 11, the 2010: Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 2010, included changes to the Ministry of Health Act, Public Health Act and the Health Authorities Act dealing with how personal information is managed.

“The amendments will allow for extensive sharing of personal information across numerous public bodies,” Fraser wrote to Falcon, the Tyee reported. Fraser recommended the amendments be removed from the bill “so that our offices can continue to discuss the proposals and so that the serious privacy concerns raised by the proposed data sharing are properly and completely canvassed before any further legislative proposals are introduced.”

Falcon said the legislation will be moving ahead without changes. The main issues are around sharing information between the ministry and the six provincial health authorities, he said.

“We should not be spending hundreds of hours talking about how we can share information just because we have six health authorities and they're all considered to be public bodies now,” he said. “This could be solved in one minute if I took back all the health authorities. I'm not going to do that just so I can deal with a privacy issue.”

The government passed the E-Health (Personal Health Information and Protection of Privacy) Act in 2008 that covers how people's personal health information can be collected and stored, said New Democratic Party health critic Adrian Dix. “The government has simply decided to end run the act,” he said. “The government seems to think following its own act is a major problem.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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