Request for Health Council records fails
An application for the release of further communications between the Bermuda Health Council and the Chief Medical Officer about two prominent physicians has been denied.
However the Information Commissioner has approved the release of one record and ordered it be disclosed by January 6.
The Royal Gazette had applied for records of any communications between the BHeC and Cheryl Peek-Ball, the Chief Medical Officer, about Ewart Brown and Mahesh Reddy between May 19, 2016 and April 11, 2017.
A total of nine records were identified, but the application was originally refused on the basis that the documents were exempt.
BHeC said it found no records referencing one of the two physicians and it argued the Bermuda Health Council Act 2004 barred the release of any of the documents.
Section 18(1) of that legislation says that members of the council “shall preserve and aid in preserving confidentiality with regard to all matters relating to the affairs of the Council or of any person, that may come to his knowledge in the course of his duties”.
In a decision dated November 25, Gitanjali Gutierrez, the Information Commissioner, found that eight of the nine records fell under the protection of the BHeC Act.
But she found that one of the records did not fall under the umbrella because the information contained in it is publicly available from another source.
BHeC further argued the disclosure of the documents would undermine its role as a regulator and weaken its ability to carry out its functions.
The Royal Gazette argued that the documents should be released in the public interest.
Ms Gutierrez said: “The applicant highlighted the context concerning the provision of healthcare in Bermuda, including rising healthcare costs, the potential over-ordering of diagnostic tests, the arrest and investigation of a physician and the lawsuit against the Lahey Clinic in the United States.
“The applicant urged that the Health Council, as a regulatory body concerned with healthcare quality, has a role to play in the investigation, monitoring and regulating the alleged over-ordering of potentially dangerous medical tests and a duty to disseminate its findings to the public.
“The applicant stated that it is very much in the public interest to know what the Health Council is doing from a regulatory standpoint in relation to the potential over-ordering of tests.”
Ms Gutierrez found that the release of the record would not hinder the BHeC’s future work.
She also dismissed claims that the record would harm the commercial interests of the physician or that it fell into the category of information provided to the BHeC in confidence.
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