Freedom of Information Reporting within the Public Health System - No Longer Applicable - Rescinded 10 August 2020

Applicable to: All Health Service Providers

Description: The Operational Directive sets out notification and reporting requirements for public health agencies when they receive contentious and sensitive Freedom of Information applications.

Freedom of Information Reporting within the Public Health System

Scope:

This Operational Directive is applicable to the following entities:

  • Metropolitan Health Services
  • WA Country Health Service
  • Department of Health
  • Drug and Alcohol Office
  • Pathwest Laboratory
  • Dental Health Service
  • Health Corporate Network.

Overview:

The Freedom of Information Act 1992 (FOI Act) was introduced in Western Australia to provide members of the public with a legal right of access to documents held by public sector agencies. The objectives of this Act are to:

a. enable the public to participate more effectively in governing the State; and

b. make the persons and bodies that are responsible for State and local government more accountable to the public.

For the purposes of the FOI Act, the Department of Health and the Minister for Health constitute separate FOI agencies. The WA Country Health Service is also a separate agency. With respect to the Metropolitan Area Health Services the metropolitan public hospitals have historically constituted separate FOI agencies. However as agency status is tied to organisational structure, the composition of agencies in the public health services will be subject to change as organisational change occurs.

Reporting of FOI Applications:

FOI applications are usually dealt with by the agency that holds the documents requested under an FOI application.

In order that the Director General of Health is fully informed of information being sought by and provided to the public, it is important that a reporting system of FOI applications be maintained. Accordingly, the Corporate Governance Directorate is to be advised of any requests that are considered contentious and/or sensitive in nature and which may have significant implications for the management of WA Health. As a guide this would include any requests from media organisations, political parties, health interest groups, legal firms, industrial organisations etc. As a principle anything that is non-routine is potentially a contentious application and should be reported.  (A routine request is one such as a request by an individual for access to his/her patient records).

This advice is to be provided to the Freedom of Information Officer located within the Corporate Governance Directorate as soon as the request is received.

There are also occasions when an FOI applicant will submit identical applications to a number of agencies and when this occurs, a single, WA Health response may be appropriate. In this instance, the Corporate Governance Directorate will act as the co-ordination point for these applications.

It is also important that in all circumstances, the FOI Co-ordinators of respective agencies liaise with their Public Affairs Units with respect to the management of public relations issues that arise from the disclosure of FOI documents.  In particular Public Affairs Units must be informed of all FOI applications received from media outlets.

Conclusion:

By following the above processes, WA Health will be able to more effectively manage issues surrounding the release of contentious material under FOI and ensure a co-ordinated FOI response occurs where this is appropriate. This will provide benefits both for WA Health and the FOI applicant.


Dr. Peter Flett
ACTING DIRECTOR GENERAL
WA HEALTH

Date of effect: 01 May 2008 to 01 July 2020

Policy Framework