Law firm changes its scandal-avoidance advice for hospitals

By ,London Free Press

First posted:



LONDON, ONT. - An Ontario law firm has cleansed its website of a recommendation that drew the ire of politicians and the province's access to information boss a recommendation that hospitals "cleanse" files of documents that might cause public scandals.

Lawyers at Toronto-based Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt had suggested that to avoid another eHealth spending scandal, hospitals should be "cleansing" files before the end of the year because next year citizens will be able to request records under a new public access law.

But the law firm has since removed the reference to the eHealth scandal and replaced the word "cleansing" with "organizing."

The changes inspired a sarcastic note from the patient advocacy group that first drew attention to the post on the law firm's website.

The advocacy group, Every Patient Matters, posted the following on its Facebook page:

"It looks like law firm Osler is listening to its own advice.  Today, after the press aired the "scandal" of their advice to hospitals, they decided to 'cleanse existing files.'"

The fallout over public access to hospital records also generated a statement from the Ontario Hospital Association, which along with doctors and insurers has lobbied the provincial government to back off plans to subject hospitals to the same public scrutiny that other public agencies have faced for two decades.

"We understand that some law firms have chosen to publicly share their general opinions on the (access to information act) as it applies to hospitals, and on how they would recommend their clients proceed. That is their prerogative," the association wrote in a news release.

"However, the first principle for the (association) and for the law firms that are actually assisting us in preparing hospitals for (the new access law) is that the spirit and the letter of (the access law) must be adhered to at all times, period. To do otherwise would undermine public confidence in hospitals and our health care system."

The hospital association also states it supports making hospitals subject to access requests, but doesn't mention that it lobbied to change the law in a way that nurses, patient advocates and opposition parties say would render the legislation powerless allowing hospitals to keep from public scrutiny records used to assess patient safety or services.



Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre


Cleansing of files is a systemic problem throughout the government. Take Ontario Superior Court. Judges are allowed to and do, "sanitize transcripts", if they don't like a litigant, they can change a no to a yes, remove sentences, paragraphs or even change words to make the transcript read like gibberish. The same judges then fail to allow any review of the transcripts that might cause them embarrassment.

Often cleansing never gets to happen, Ontario Courts operate like secret courts, restricting public access, fail to allow live audio broadcasting or even audio files of court hearings that should be available to the public as the fact is, Ontario Judges intimidate as much as possible to deter the public from observing, their injustice.