On May 20, 2004, Bill 31, The Health Information Protection Act, 2004, received Royal Assent and will come into force on November 1, 2004. This date is earlier than the January 1, 2005 date which was proposed in the second reading version of Bill 31. Borden Ladner Gervais LLP has been extensively engaged in reviewing previous draft privacy legislation as well as drafts of this Act and making submissions to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care with the interest of public hospitals in mind.

As with previous legislative initiatives, the drafters of Bill 31 recognized the need for facilities to address quality of care and that quality assurance, risk management and error management activities should be encouraged and not fettered. The legislation has struck a balance between the public interest in these activities and the need to protect the privacy of individual patients.

In taking steps to comply with the new privacy legislation, hospitals and other facilities will wish to ensure that they have an accurate understanding of Bill 31 and its regulations (yet to be adopted) and are cautious in adopting policies and procedures, that they preserve the balance this legislation provides between the protection of personal health information and the collection, use and disclosure of information to facilitate the delivery of care and the administration of public hospitals.

type Highlights of Ontario's New Privacy Legislation: The Health Information Protection Act, 2004