Access to Patient Information / Freedom of Information (FOI)

Can I access my own health information?

You have the right to request access to your medical record and personal information held by Northeast Health Wangaratta (NHW), in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) (FOI Act) and the Health Records Act 2001 (Vic).  It is possible to obtain copies of information, view information or request an amendment to information that is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading.

You can also request access to the medical information of another person, with their written consent.

What information is not available?

The FOI Act allows for documents or parts of documents to be exempted under certain circumstances.  Examples include:

  • Documents containing personal information about other people
  • Documents containing information given to NHW in confidence
  • Internal working papers

Each FOI request will be assessed in accordance with the FOI Act.  If documents requested are exempted, you will be advised and reference to the appropriate clause of the FOI Act provided.

Most FOI applications are straightforward with no restrictions to information provided.

NHW keeps medical records for at least 15 years from the last time they were used to provide patient treatment, after which time they are securely destroyed.

How do I apply to access health information?

In accordance with the FOI Act, a valid request must be made to access health information held by NHW.  Applications must include the following before they can be processed:

  • Written application – complete a Freedom of Information Application form, or write a letter that provides all the required information
  • Identification – a clear photocopy of identification that shows your current address and signature MUST be provided with your application, eg driver’s licence, passport or Centrelink card
  • Authority for release of the information if you are requesting access to another person’s health information – see requirements under the section ‘Do I have the right to access the information?
  • Application fee – $29.60 (as at 1 July 2019). The application fee and must accompany the written request and is non-refundable.

Do I have the right to access the information?

NHW must take reasonable steps to be satisfied that the applicant has the “right to access” the health information.  We have a duty to protect the privacy of personal information.  If the applicant is requesting access to information about another person, and that person is:

Over 18 years of age
It is preferable for the patient to apply for access to their own health information.  If this is not possible, you may be granted access if the patient provides their written authority.

Where the patient is not able to provide authority, we require evidence that you have the “right to access” the information as the patient’s legal representative or Medical Treatment Decision Maker, Medical Power of Attorney, Guardian or Administrator.

16-18 years of age
It is preferable for the patient to apply for access to their own health information.

In recognition of a young person’s evolving competence and right to privacy, NHW’s policy is to obtain consent from the young person.

Under 16 years of age
If there are Family Court orders in place, a copy of the order must be provided.

Deceased
You may be granted access to a deceased person’s health information only if you can provide evidence that you are the Senior Available Next of Kin, or with the written consent of the deceased’s Senior Available Next of Kin.

How much will it cost?

The costs associated with making a request include an application fee and access charges that are set by government regulations under the FOI Act, in addition, the cost of postage is also charged.

Application Fee
$29.60 (as at 1 July 2019)
The application fee is non-refundable and must accompany the written application.

Access Charges
Search time – $22.20 per hour or part thereof in 15 minute increments
Paper records – 20 cents per single side black and white A4 photocopy
Image to disc – $20.00
Where the access charges are estimated to be in excess of $50, a deposit will be requested.

If the request is for access to information relating to the personal affairs of the applicant, and one of the following applies the application fee and access charges are waived:

  • Valid Centrelink Health Care Card (photocopy of both sides must be provided)
  • Valid Centrelink Pension Card (photocopy of both sides must be provided)
  • Financial hardship – please contact us to request a fee exemption

Postage Charges

Documentation will be posted by Registered or Parcel Post, with signature on delivery required.  The cost for this is $3.50 in addition to the actual cost of postage (per weight) as per Australia Post rates. You may elect to collect the information in person to avoid this charge.

Payment methods

Cash, EFT, cheque or credit card payment.  Cheques to be made payable to Northeast Health Wangaratta.

How to submit your application?

Post:
Freedom of Information Officer
Northeast Health Wangaratta
PO Box 386, Wangaratta VIC  3676

Fax: (03) 5722 5109

Email: foi@nhw.org.au

 In Person: Cashier desk, Main Reception, 35-47 Green Street Wangaratta (Monday to Friday  – 8.30am to 4.30pm)

What happens next?

You will receive an acknowledgment letter (by email if you have provided your email address) usually within 7 days of submitting a valid request.  We may also contact you by telephone if we need to clarify your request.

We may write to you again following our assessment of your application, to request a deposit, if the access charges are estimated to be in excess of $50.

A formal decision letter will be provided no later than 30 days from receipt of the valid request and payment of deposit (if required).  This may be subject to extensions permitted under the FOI Act of which you will be notified.

This letter will also include an invoice for the applicable access charges.

Complaints

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your FOI application please contact the FOI Officer on 5722 5233 to discuss your request.

If, following discussion, you are still not satisfied with the outcome of your FOI application, there are other avenues of appeal you may pursue:

Option1:  Review by the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC)

You may apply to OVIC for review within 28 days after the day on which you receive our notification.

If you are unsatisfied with the result of the OVIC review, you have 60 days in which to lodge an appeal with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

                OR

Option 2: Seek Conciliation by the Health Complaints Commissioner

If the decision relates to health information, you may apply for conciliation through the Health Complaints Commissioner.  You have 28 days from receipt of our notification to apply for this conciliation.  If there is a serious threat to the life or health of the applicant, you have 70 days to apply.

If you are unsatisfied with the result of the conciliation, you have 60 days in which to lodge an appeal with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

Further Information

If after reading the above information you have further questions, please contact the Northeast Health FOI Officer on (03) 5722 5233 or email foi@nhw.org.au

Useful Links

NHW Freedom of Information Part II Statements.pdf

Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner

Health Complaints Commissioner

Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic)

Health Records Act