Freedom of Information

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Niagara Health has established the Privacy and Freedom of Information (FOI) Office to coordinate requests and matters related to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). The Privacy FOI office oversees the administration of personal information access requests liaises with the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

What is FIPPA?

Freedom of Information FAQs 

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) regulates the collection, use and disclosure of personal information and the retention, destruction, security and accuracy of personal information; it requires hospitals to maintain certain data banks; it applies to all existing hospital corporate records. The Act applies to all corporate records that come into the custody or control of the hospital on or after January 1, 2007. Upon request, certain records must be made available in accordance with the Act.

FIPPA has two main purposes;

  1. To provide the public a right of access to hospital information subject to limited exemptions and exclusions; and
  2. To protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about themselves held by hospitals and to provide individuals with a right of access to that information.

Does FIPPA allow access to Personal Health Information (PHI)?

No, personal health information is subject to the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA). If you are seeking access or correction to your health records, please contact the Health Information Management Department..

Read the full Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act on Ontario’s e-Laws web site.

What is personal information?

The definition of “personal information” in FIPPA is recorded information about an identifiable individual, including:

  • 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.

What is a personal information bank?

The FIPPA definition of a "personal information bank"  is a collection of personal information that is organized and capable of being retrieved using an individual’s name or an identifying number or particular number assigned to the individual.

Make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request

If you are making a formal request for access to general information or access to personal information or to have your personal information corrected, you must follow these steps:

    1. Check the Directory of Records and Personal Information Bank (PIB) to make sure Niagara Health maintains the information you need.
    2. Download and complete the Access to Information Request (French version). You must clearly identify the records you are seeking. Be sure to include your contact information.
    3. Prepare a cheque or money order for $5.00 payable to "Niagara Health".
    4. Submit your request, together with the $5.00 application fee to:
      Niagara Health
      Privacy and Freedom of Information Office
      St. Catharines Site
      1200 Fourth Avenue
      St. Catharines ON  L2S 0A9

Once we receive your application, we will send you written acknowledgement of your request. If you require the application form or the information requested in a different format (e.g. larger type) please let us know by contacting our office. If you have any questions email our FOI & Privacy Office, or call 905-378-4647 ext. 46203.

Note that the formal process (above) is not always required. In fact, as much as possible, Niagara Health is proactively posting information on its public website to make accessing information convenient. The information that you are seeking may be readily available, on the hospital’s public website. When it is not available on the public website, a formal request is made.

FOI request fees and costs

The $5.00 application fee is for the formal written request. Under FIPPA, Niagara Health may charge additional fees to process your request. These may include;

  • Search fee of $7.50 per quarter hours ($30.00 per hour) for searching for and preparing a record for disclosure (these fees apply to general information requests only),
  • Photocopying charges of $0.20 per page and $10.00 per CD,
  • Other charges, if incurred, will be provided in an invoice.

Additional fees may apply relevant to the cost of research, gathering and sending the information requested. For further information on fees and costs please refer to the Fee Schedule (PDF).

You will be advised if the processing fees will exceed $25.00 and you will be asked to provide a deposit of 50% if the estimated processing cost exceeds $100. We will notify you if any exemptions under FIPPA apply to the records you are requesting so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not to pay the deposit.

You may request that the fees be waived.  The burden is on the requester to provide proof to support a fee waiver. Niagara Health may only consider the factors outlined under FIPPA subsection 56(4).

Decisions related to Freedom of information requests may be appealed to the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Appealing the results of FOI requests

Any decision we issue related to Freedom of Information requests under The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), including the decision to charge a fee, may be appealed to the Information and Privacy Commissioner within 30 days from date of receipt of the letter denying your request.

How to submit an appeal

Send the following to the Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario:

  • a copy of your original request
  • a copy of Niagara Health’s response
  • an appeal fee of $10 for personal information requests and $25 for general information requests
Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario
Suite 1400, 2 Bloor Street East
Toronto, ON M4W 1A8
Tel: 416.326.3333
Toll-free (Ontario only): 1.800.387.0073

FIPPA

Related Information & Policies Contact the Privacy FOI Office

Freedom of Information FAQs
Fee Schedule
Transparency & FOI Policy
Directory Of Records PIB
FOI Access Request
FOI Access Request FR

Transparency & FOI Policy
Accountability & Transparency
External Reviews

Niagara Health
Phone: 905.378.4647 ext. 44475
Fax: 905.397.1929
Email the FOI & Privacy Office

For access or correction to your health records, please contact Health Records 

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Niagara Health System