The QCIPA, or Quality of Care Information Protection Act, was passed in 2004 with the express intent of allowing those in the healthcare field to speak up about medical errors without compromising patient confidentiality, and, as a result, encourage accountability in the community. This is explicitly stated by the Ontario Ministry of Health, which writes:
The Act promotes the sharing of information and open discussions among health professionals, which can lead to improved patient care and safety. For example, more openness about errors can result in potential solutions to ensure they do not recur.
However, with the tragic suicide of a young man under a Brampton hospital’s psychiatric care, both the hospital and the QCIPA have come under fire as they refuse to disclose the details surrounding the death, even to the man’s immediate family.
While many Canadians take comfort in knowing that their patient records are confidential, some accuse hospitals of misusing the QCIPA to shield themselves from public responsibility. The Act itself trumps The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, meaning that interested parties, including families, have no legal avenue for finding out the details of what occurred, in what area the hospital failed the patient, or what practical, corrective steps are being taken.
Some in the medical community, however, argue that the QCIPA itself is not to blame, but rather the hospitals distortion or, at worst, poorly drafted legislation. One hospital, Toronto East General, reviewed 15 incidents in three years, none under QCIPA, believing that patient privacy protection and hospital transparency are not mutually exclusive. In the same time period, by contrast, University Health Network used QCIPA in all 96 critical incident reviews, with similar results in many Toronto area hospitals.
All this begs the question: who exactly are the hospitals protecting – their patients, or themselves? While the family of the Brampton man continues to search for answers, the province itself is reviewing the Act in the aftermath of the tragedy.