Opinions

Photo: CC, Rhonda Baer.

QCIPA in current state hurts patient families and medical system at large

Canadians are known around the world by our fiercely defended stereotypes—we’re just a bunch of hockey-loving, Tim Hortons-swigging, polar bear-riding, igloo-dwelling folk with a great health-care system. But we know better, none of those things are black and white. Our national sport isn’t even just hockey, it’s also lacrosse! And our healthcare, despite popular belief, isn’t always as great as it sounds.

Canadian healthcare has been under fire recently as complaints of withholding information under the Quality of Care Information Protection Act (QCIPA) have been steadily rising. What started out as a way to protect the privacy rights of hospitals has since been used under unethical circumstances. Hospitals are hiding behind the QCIPA to protect themselves against the threat of grieving families after mistakes that they should be held accountable for.

The act was first passed in 2004 in an effort to keep in-hospital investigations confidential and allow health-care professionals to divulge information at their discretion so as not to be threatened with a court case. It was intended only to be used in the most serious cases but institutions like St. Joseph’s and the University Health Network swear by the QCIPA. 

If Canada really is as free and accepting as our neighbouring countries believe it to be, there should be no secrecy in our health-care system its policies, or corrective actions taken when things don’t go as planned.

In one case, a woman named Pamela Minocha was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Toronto for pain in her tooth and was pronounced dead seven hours later. Her parents and brother were informed of her death upon arrival but given no further information under the act. Not only is the hospital’s reluctance to involve family in patient care a telling sign about their handiwork, it also suggests refusal to correct their mistakes.

At Brampton Civic Hospital, a man named Prashant Tiwari, who was staying in the psychiatric ward, hung himself while  staff members were allegedly at a potluck. In this case as well, it took the hospital 15 days to get back to Tiwari’s family, who were given limited information regarding his death under the QCIPA.

Such negligence speaks volumes about the priorities of our current health-care system. With an act like this put in place, what we’re essentially saying is that a patient’s well-being comes second to the hospital’s reputation.

Both aforementioned cases lead to lawsuits for the hospitals in question, something that the act was put in place to avoid. It seems that cases like these aren’t just detrimental to a patient’s family but also to the institution and the system itself. When hospitals hide the contents of their investigative reports they’re not only hiding them from family but also from other hospitals, increasing the likelihood that errors will be repeated elsewhere.

In light of these events, a review committee is considering standardized use of the act across the province. Other possible revisions include increasing fines for offences, reaffirming the rights of the patients and their families to information on corrective actions to be taken, and reviewing the act every five years to ensure it is not being abused. 

Changes like these could greatly improve the current system and the trend of decreasing trust in  our healthcare providers. If we can increase transparency with amendments to the QCIPA act, we may still have the right to boast about our health-care system that millions depend on so heavily.