BC Supreme Court upholds stay on physician's access to information requests

Medical professional faced an audit, resulting in an order to repay a significant amount

BC Supreme Court upholds stay on physician's access to information requests

The Supreme Court of British Columbia upheld the Information and Privacy Commissioner's decision to stay all of a physician's access to information requests related to his Medical Services Plan billing issues, making the decision procedurally fair and reasonable.

In Cimolai v British Columbia (Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2024 BCSC 948, the physician faced a 2017 audit by the Medical Services Commission (MSC), resulting in an order to repay a significant amount and a three-year suspension from billing MSP. Seeking information related to this audit, the physician filed numerous requests under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), leading to 126 requests for review and 24 reconsideration requests to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) between 2017 and 2022.

In October 2022, the Ministries involved in the audit sought a determination from the OIPC that the physician’s repeated requests constituted an abuse of process. The Commissioner’s delegate issued an order agreeing with the Ministries and cancelling all ongoing files related to the MSP matter.

The physician challenged this decision, arguing that the process was procedurally unfair and the decision unreasonable. He claimed the in-camera process, which accepted affidavits with redacted identities, was unfair and that he was not given a proper chance to present his case. He also alleged bias on the part of the delegate.

The Supreme Court rejected these claims, finding the in-camera process and the redactions within the Commissioner’s authority under FIPPA. It noted that the process was designed to protect sensitive information and was applied fairly. The court also determined that the decision was based on substantial evidence and was procedurally fair, concluding that the physician’s numerous requests and submissions were repetitive, unsubstantiated, and aimed more at discrediting individuals involved in the audit than genuinely seeking information.

Additionally, the court dismissed claims of bias, stating there was no evidence to support a reasonable apprehension of bias either individually or institutionally. The court noted that the decision's language and findings were appropriate given the context of the abuse of process allegations.

In the end, the court upheld the Commissioner’s decision to stay the physician’s access requests related to the MSP matter, affirming that the actions taken were reasonable and within the scope of FIPPA.

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