|Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI) and Information Privacy Act 2009 (IP)|
|Privacy framework for Queensland Health|
As a matter of policy, Queensland Health generally supports the right of patients to see what information is held about them by a health facility.
Since 1992, Queensland Health has had in place an administrative access policy providing a framework for such access.
In 2005, Queensland Health implemented its Health Information: Disclosure and Access Policy, whereby a member of the community may, in most circumstances, access their own health records held by a public hospital or community health service within Queensland.
Requests for access to health records must be in writing and directed to the office of the health facility's senior health professional. There is a form available that may help to ensure that all of the information necessary to process the application is included, however, use of the form is optional.
A list of public health hospitals and facilities is available at http://www.health.qld.gov.au/healthservices/byFacility.asp. Documentary evidence of identity should also be supplied at this time (e.g. a certified copy of a drivers licence or birth certificate).
Administrative access to health records will usually be provided within 15 business days of receipt of the request. Access under this administrative arrangement does not affect an applicant's right to seek access to documents under the Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI) or Information Privacy Act 2009 (IP) (whichever is applicable).
If the application cannot be processed administratively, it will generally be referred for processing under the IP Act. (Please refer to 'How to lodge an application under the RTI and IP Acts' below).
Current Queensland Health employees
Current employees are entitled to access their own 'employee record'* under administrative arrangements detailed in the department's HR Policy F3 - Access to Employee Records. The specific procedure for seeking access under the policy is detailed on page 5 of HR Policy F3.
* Please note: 'employee record' is identified in the policy and there are six specific categories of records to which access will not be provided under this administrative arrangement (see the list of exceptions on page 3 of policy). However, as noted in the policy, employees are still entitled to apply for access to such documents under the RTI or IP Acts.
Former Queensland Health Employees
The HR Policy F3 referred to above does not apply once individuals cease to be employees of Queensland Health. If the employee moves to another state government agency, and is employed under the Public Service Act 2008, an equivalent entitlement to that set out in HR Policy F3 is included in the Public Service Regulation 2008.
Otherwise, former employees of Queensland Health can contact the human resource/employment relations office responsible for the branch/unit/district in which they previously worked, to see if the responsible person is prepared to exercise discretion to grant access to the record (even though there is no absolute entitlement to such access once a person has ceased to be an employee).
If access is not available directly from HR/ER, then the former employee's only option is to lodge an application under the RTI or IP Act, seeking access to the relevant document.
Applications by employees to access their personnel records should be made in writing and directed to the HR team of the relevant Hospital and Health Service or System Manager.
The RTI and IP Acts commenced operation on 1 July 2009, replacing the former Freedom of Information Act 1992. Much like the former FOI Act, the RTI and IP Acts are designed to extend as far as possible the right of access to information held by the Queensland government. The RTI and IP Acts apply to Queensland Ministers, Queensland government departments, local councils and most semi-government agencies and statutory authorities. They do not apply to documents held by the Commonwealth government or by other State governments (such documents are subject to the freedom of information / right to information legislation of those other juristictions).
The RTI Act governs access applications for documents that are considered "non-personal" in nature as they relate to the applicant. The definition of "personal information" is contained in the RTI and IP Acts as follows:
|"personal information" is defined as information or an opinion, including information or an opinion forming part of a database, whether true or not, and whether recorded in a material form or not, about an individual whose identity is apparent, or can reasonably be ascertained, from the information or opinion.|
The IP Act governs access and amendment applications for documents that are considered "personal" in nature as they relate to the applicant.
The RTI and IP Acts, subject to the exceptions and exclusions in the Act, give every person a legally enforceable right to:
The applicant does not have to give a reason for wanting access to documents. If the application is refused, the RTI/IP decision-maker will provide a written explanation of the reasons, and details of the applicant's review rights.
Documents/information covered by the RTI and IP Acts includes files, reports, letters and memos including drafts and handwritten notes as well as computer printouts, maps, plans, photographs, tape recordings, films or videotapes and other means of storing information.
An RTI access application (that is, the documents sought are considered "non-personal" in nature) must:
An IP access application (that is, the documents sought are considered "personal" in nature) must:
An IP amendment application must:
An IP amendment application can only be made by a person seeking amendment of information concerning his or her own personal affairs or amendment of information concerning the personal affairs of certain deceased persons.
There are Queensland government RTI and IP application forms (access and amendment) that may help to ensure that all of the information necessary to process the application is included.
Applications should be forwarded to the relevant RTI/IP decision-maker within either System Manager or the hospital and health service that hold the documents to which access or amendment is requested
Evidence of identity is only required for:
Requirements for evidence of identity are prescribed under section 3 of the RTI and IP Regulations and are as follows:
a statutory declaration from an individual who has known the person for at least one year; or if the person is a prisoner within the meaning of the Corrective Services Act 2006 - a copy of the person's identity card from the department administering that Act that is certified by a corrective services officer within the meaning of that Act.
The RTI and IP Regulations also provide that, alternatively, an applicant can provide a copy of any of the abovementioned documents (apart from a prisoner identity card), where the copy has been certified as a 'true copy' by a qualified witness (that is, a lawyer or notary public, a commissioner for declarations or a justice of the peace).
Specific details of the requirements for evidence of identity, as well as evidence of authorisation where an application is made by an agent on an applicant's behalf, can be found in the Evidence of Identity / Evidence of Authority Information Sheet.
RTI access applications
An application fee is payable for non-personal access applications. A cheque or money order (made payable to Queensland Health) for the prescribed fee must accompany the application.
Details of the current application fee, processing and access charges can be found on the 'Summary of Fees and Charges' information sheet.
IP access applications
IP amendment applications
There are no fees or charges for amendment applications.
A processing charge or access charge may be waived only in the circumstances specified in the Right to Information Act 2009:
Individuals who have applied to Queensland Health may seek a waiver of charges on the grounds of financial hardship if they hold:
Non-profit organisations may apply to the Information Commissioner to have charges waived if they provide documentary:
|*Please note:||Only the prescribed processing and access charges may be waived on grounds of financial hardship. The application fee is mandatory for all non-personal access applications and cannot be waived.|
Once Queensland Health receives an RTI or IP application, an RTI/IP officer will review it to make sure that the correct mechanism has been utilised, that all the necessary information and payment (if required) has been included and that the documents sought have been clearly identified.
Should an RTI application need to be processed under the IP Act (or vice versa), the RTI/IP officer will contact the applicant to explain the reasons and to discuss the available options in the circumstances.
For access applications, the RTI and IP Acts provide an initial time limit of 25 business days from the date of receipt of the application for completing the processing of an application. Please note that the timeframe may be extended if the application is subject to certain clock stopping provisions within the RTI and IP Acts.
For amendment applications, the IP Act provides an initial time limit of 25 business days from the date of receipt of the application for completing the processing of an application. Please note that the timeframe may be extended if the application is subject to certain clock stopping provisions within the IP Acts.
If an applicant is not satisfied with the original decision, they can apply for an 'internal review' within 20 business days after the date of the original decision letter. The internal review must be dealt with by an officer who was not involved in processing the original application, and the internal review decision maker must issue a fresh decision within 20 days of receipt of the internal review application.
Internal review is an optional stage in the appeal process for the RTI and IP Acts. An applicant may choose to proceed directly to the external review stage.
If an applicant is dissatisfied with either the original or internal review decisions, they may then apply to the Information Commissioner for an 'external review' of the department's decision. An application for external review should be lodged with the Information Commissioner within 20 business days after the date of the decision they wish to have reviewed by the Information Commissioner. This must be done in writing either via a letter or by using the form located on the Information Commissioner's website at http://www.oic.qld.gov.au/.
There are no fees or charges for either internal or external review.
For further details regarding the RTI and IP process for Queensland Health, for example:
Privacy and Right to Information
For further general information on the RTI and IP process, agency RTI/IP contacts and links to the RTI and IP Acts please visit: