Frequently Asked Questions - FIPPA
Q: What is FIPPA? When does it take effect?
A: FIPPA stands for the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. As of Jan. 1, 2012, Ontario hospitals will be designated as institutions under FIPPA, which means that anyone has the right to make a request for access to a wide range of information held by hospitals.
The Act is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2007, which means that records that came into a hospital’s custody and/or control on or after Jan. 1, 2007 are subject to FIPPA.
Q: What is the purpose of FIPPA?
A: FIPPA has two main purposes: granting access to information and protecting the privacy of individuals.
Access: FIPPA provides a right of access to information under the control of institutions in accordance with the principles that:
Privacy: FIPPA protects the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by institutions and provides individuals with a right of access to the information. These concepts are similar to those the hospital already employs with respect to personal health information under the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).
- Information held by the government and the broader public sector should be available to the public;
- Limitations on the right of access should be narrow and specific; and,
- Decisions on the disclosure of information should be reviewed independently of the hospital’s control of the information.
Q: How does FIPPA define personal information?
A: The definition of "personal information" as given in FIPPA is recorded information about an identifiable individual, including:
Q: Why have hospitals been added under FIPPA legislation?
- Information relating to the race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation or marital or family status of the individual;
- Information relating to the education or the medical, psychiatric, psychological, criminal or employment history of the individual or information relating to financial transactions in which the individual has been involved;
- Any identifying number, symbol or other particular assigned to the individual;
- The address, telephone number, fingerprints or blood type of the individual;
- The personal opinions or views of the individual except where they relate to another individual;
- Correspondence sent to an institution by the individual that is implicitly or explicitly of a private or confidential nature, and replies to that correspondence that would reveal the contents of the original correspondence;
- The views or opinions of another individual about the individual; and
- The individual's name where it appears with other personal information relating to the individual or where the disclosure of the name would reveal other personal information about the individual.
Access to information held by our public institutions is a vital ingredient for a free and functioning democratic society. This is a welcome step toward a culture of greater transparency and accountability in our hospitals.
Q: What changes with the introduction of hospitals to FIPPA?
With the introduction of FIPPA, you have a much broader right of access to records held by hospitals. For example, you may request access to records under a hospital’s custody or control relating to:
There are a number of exemptions and exclusions from the right of access. For example, where the disclosure of a record could reasonably be expected to interfere with a law enforcement matter, it may be exempt from disclosure. As another example, records that relate to the operations of a hospital foundation are excluded from the right of access. Every hospital will have a designated Freedom of Information Coordinator to administer the requests received under FIPPA.
- administrative and operational functions;
- financial considerations and decisions; and
- personal information.
Q: What information/records does the Act apply to?
FIPPA provides access to information that is recorded, or that can be made into a record, whether in print, audio or electronic form, including:
Q: What is a Freedom of Information (FOI) request?
- Paper and electronic files and documents
- Emails (including those on networks, desktops and personal devices)
- Photographs, video and audio recordings
- Non-final drafts and working notes
- Expense claims/accounts
- Minutes of meetings, agendas, communication books
- Handwritten notes and personal notes
- Spreadsheets and sketches.
An FOI request is an official written request for information from an organization covered by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). Visit the “Making a request to access information”page for more information.
Q: Who can make an FOI request?
Any person, organization or company can make a request for access to records. A person includes individuals and organizations such as corporations, partnerships and sole proprietorships. The right of access is not limited by citizenship or place of residence.
Q: When can I expect a response to an FOI request?
You will receive a written response to your FOI request within 30 days after the form and fee are received.
Q: How do I make a FOI request?
FOI requests must be submitted in writing to the hospital’s Freedom of Information Coordinator and accompanied by a $5 cheque or money order made payable to Hotel Dieu Hospital. Visit the “Making a request to access information” page for more information.
Q: Is it always necessary to go through a formal request process?
No, the formal process is not always required. Hotel Dieu Hospital is proactively making much information readily available on its public website in its Public Disclosure Library [link].
Q: What if I don’t get the information I am looking for?
A hospital needs to reply to your written request within 30 calendar days. The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) has oversight for compliance with FIPPA. If you do not receive the hospital’s response within the 30-day time frame you can appeal to our office on the basis of a “deemed refusal.”
The hospital may decide not to release all of the information that you request, in which case it would have to cite the sections of FIPPA it is using to withhold the information from you. If you disagree, you have the right to appeal the decision to the IPC. Appeals must be made within 30 days of when you receive the decision that you wish to appeal. You can do this by writing a letter or using the IPC Appeal Form (available at www.ipc.on.ca) and enclosing an appeal fee of $10.00 (for personal information) or $25.00 (for general information).
To learn more about the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, please consult the following resources:
Ministry of Government Services - Information Access and Privacy Website
Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.O. 1990, C.F.31
FIPPA, R.R.O. 1990, Regulation 459 - Disposal of Personal Information
FIPPA, R.R.O. 1990, Regulation 460 - General
OHA - Ontario Hospital Association
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