Sutherland and Brisbane North Regional Health Authority
(1993 S0240, 13 April 1995)
This was a ‘reverse-FOI’ application by a general practitioner who objected to the respondent’s decision to give the third party (one of the applicant’s patients) access to a letter concerning the third party’s medical treatment, which the applicant had forwarded to a specialist employed by the respondent. The applicant argued that the document comprised information of a confidential nature that was communicated in confidence, and the Information Commissioner had to decide whether the information in issue was exempt from disclosure to the third party under s.46(1)(a) or s.46(1)(b) of the FOI Act.
The Information Commissioner found that part of the letter contained information which was not confidential vis-à-vis the third party, and hence not exempt from disclosure to the third party. The Information Commissioner found that the balance of the letter was exempt under s.46(1)(a), and made some observations (at paragraphs 18-21) on the circumstances in which communications between medical practitioners concerning a patient’s medical treatment may be kept confidential from the patient.
With respect to s.46(1)(b), the Information Commissioner expressed the view that disclosure of the document in issue could not reasonably be expected to prejudice the future supply of like information. The Information Commissioner did not think there was any reasonable basis for expecting that medical practitioners would refuse to supply necessary information, relating to the treatment of their patients, to other medical practitioners practising in the public health system, whose patient records may be subject to the FOI Act.