Thursday, October 17, 2013

Meet your MPP and ask why abortions services are excluded from FIPPA

I met with my MPP Madeleine Meilleur this week, about the recent changes to FIPPA to exclude abortion services. I had already written to her.

(In this meeting, Ms. Meilleur seemed somewhat confused as to what this change to FIPPA actually was. She did state at the end of our conversation that this is not her portfolio [Health]. Understood. But this is her own government's changes to the law. She also didn't know what CIHI was. Again a surprise, especially since the change to the law, and CIHI were both mentioned in her response to my original letter to her.)

I asked her why the government put the abortion exclusion clause into FIPPA.

Ms. Meilleur responded:
"We amended the Freedom of Information Act at the request of the hospitals to maintain the quality and the privacy of the information, so it was not specific to abortion. It's among other things [in the act]. I don't think you would like your private information to be disclosed to the public." 
I explained to Ms. Meilleur, that the change had nothing to do with privacy. That I agree that private information should never be released, however there is no private information in what I'm asking for. I'm asking for totals of abortion statistics, those done in hospitals, in private physician offices and clinics. I said that private and personal information is already excluded from the act. I said that because it is important to have good statistics, and it doesn't matter if you are pro-life or pro-choice, we need to have accurate statistics for all health concerns for women.

I asked her again, saying that I'm just trying to understand why the Ontario government did this. They haven't excluded information for woman who have breast cancer, or knee surgeries. So why did they exclude abortion services?

Ms.Meilleur responded:
"The answer is that at the request of the hospitals, at the request of the physician, this was supported. I know your objective but the objective of this government, and of past governments, who have put in place the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act, so it was added to protect certain information, so this was added, because of concerns the hospitals have, so that's why it's in place."
Again she brought the discussion back to privacy, which is clearly not what this is about. In any event, instead I asked her:
"So are you saying that the hospitals and physicians asked to have this excluded?"
Ms. Meilleur responded:
"When they do an amendment it's not because the government wants an amendment, it's at the request of others and its discussed, and put forward after wide consultation."
When I asked her to expand on that she said:
"Well you know what, I don't know all the details. So I think these questions should be put to the Ministry of Health, as to how it's come about."
So did the government consult the hospitals and doctors on this abortion exclusion clause? First I've heard of this.

She added that consultations were done with the public at large. Again a surprise to me. She said that usually that's the way it's done, the way that amendments are brought about. She said I should ask the Minister and that the Minister would give me specific details. She said she didn't know all the details around the changes.

Then I explained CIHI and their role and asked the question: how can I use CIHI's numbers for research when they are inaccurate? She said didn't know about this organization and couldn't answer my question.

She said that the questions I had asked her in my letter, were sent to the Minister's office, so the response I received would have came from the Minister.

She finished with this:
"Send your questions to the Minister who has the expertise, they have all the answers."
That I did. Write to Ms. Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long Term Care. Who has all the answers. I'm dying to know what they are.

I hope others will go to their own MPPs and ask him or her about why this change to FIPPA.

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