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Health and Human Services:  Nunavut

Regulating MDs:  The Complaint Process, Discipline,
and Screening for Fitness to Practice

Nunavut Health and Social Services

Health and Social Services (HSS) is accountable to the Government of Nunavut through the Minister of Health. The mandate for handling complaints and concerns surrounding medical matters belongs with HSS. But in March 2010, the Nunavut Community Voices Report noted: Complaints and feedback do not receive adequate responses from the Department of Health and Social Services.

Until recently, complaints about health care delivery were handled by Health Committees. This left the Committees too little time to fulfill their own mandates. The process has changed, and the Health Committees will no longer:

  • Act as a complaints board
  • Represent individual interests or advocacy;
  • Hire or manage medical personnel
  • Be responsible for or address shortcomings with medical or health professional services

Health Record Privacy and Amendment

Provincial and Federal Legislation

PIPEDA Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
This privacy law covers private-sector commercial organizations, including medical clinics and physicians in private practice.
Privacy Act Privacy Act
This privacy law relates to an individual's right to access and correct personal information the Government of Canada holds about them.
HIPA Health Information Protection Act
This legislation, locally enacted by each province, governs the trustees of health records.

The federal PIPEDA law governs private-sector organizations engaged in commercial activities across Canada. It sets down clear rules for how these organizations may collect, use, or disclose personal information, and guarantees concrete avenues for amending flawed information. PIPEDA applies to medical clinics and physicians in private practice.

Some provinces have HIPA legislation that, on inspection, is deemed substantially similar to the health-records subset of PIPEDA.  An organization that operates solely within such a province will be exempt from PIPEDA, unless the personal information crosses provincial or national borders.

But more than half the provinces and territories have HIPA legislation which is not substantially similar to PIPEDA. In such provinces, an application to PIPEDA may succeed.

Nunavut is a non-compliant territory – its local HIPA legislation offers less protection for health records, and reveals less respect for patients, than the more farsighted PIPEDA. Compliance oversight belongs to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Georgena S. Sil
Saskatoon, Canada
Physicist & Technical Writer
Alumnus: University of British Columbia

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