C.4 Freedom of information

The ACT Freedom of Information Act 1989 gives citizens a legally enforceable right of access to official information in a documentary form held by ACT Ministers and agencies, except where an essential public interest requires confidentiality to be maintained. It also requires information about the operations of ACT agencies to be made publicly available, particularly rules and practices affecting citizens in their dealings with those agencies.

Section 7 statement

Section 7 of the ACT Freedom of Information Act 1989 requires all agencies to prepare and publish a statement setting out the structure, operation and categories of documents. This is set out below.

Organisation

ACT Health is responsible to the Minister for Health, who appoints the Director-General. The agency is responsible for policy development, planning and the provision of a range of health services to best meet the needs of the community within the policy framework and budget parameters set by government.

Powers

ACT Health holds a wide variety of statutory powers relating to health services in the ACT. A comprehensive list of legislation under which ACT Health exercises statutory powers can be found in Section B.4, Legislation report.

ACT Health has the authority to do all things that are necessary for the performance of its functions, including:

  • the purchase, sale and lease of buildings and equipment
  • the provision of financial assistance
  • entering into arrangements with people or authorities for the provision of health services.

The Chief Health Officer has the authority to grant, deny, vary and revoke applications for the supply of prescription drugs of dependence under the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989. The Chief Health Officer also holds powers to license and inspect hairdressers, boarding houses, eating houses, private hospitals and other establishments.

The Health Records (Privacy and Access) Act 1997 assists consumers of health services to gain access

to their medical records without having to apply under the Freedom of Information Act 1989.

The Health Services Commissioner holds power under the Human Rights Commission Act 2005 to investigate and conciliate complaints about providers of health services. Consumers can contact the Commissioner’s office by telephoning 02 6205 2222 or calling in person at Level 2, 12 Moore Street, Canberra City, ACT 2601.

Categories of documents

ACT Health holds several basic categories of documents, including:

  • those that are freely available on request and without charge
  • those available for sale, including those that are part of a public register
  • those that are exempt under the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (the Act)
  • all other kinds of documents that may be made available under the Act.

Documents available on request

Documents in this category include publications produced by ACT Health on various aspects of its activities.

These are distributed from public counters and libraries throughout the ACT and may also be available on the

ACT Government’s website at www.act.gov.au, or ACT Health’s web site at www.health.act.gov.au.

Documents of other kinds that may be available under the Freedom of Information Act are:

  • general files, including internal, interdepartmental and public documents, minutes of meetings of management and other committees, agendas and background papers, policy statements, financial and staffing estimates
  • diaries, rosters and work sheets
  • program and policy files
  • records held on microfilm, computer or paper in connection with specialised divisional functions
  • photographs, videos and films
  • financial and accounting records
  • details of contracts and tenders
  • files on applicants and clients
  • records of government, including the machinery of government
  • leases and deeds of agreement
  • databases relating to personnel administration, assets registers, in-patient morbidity statistics and accounting systems
  • maps and plans of ACT Health’s facilities, such as hospitals and health centres, working plans and drawings for proposed buildings or facilities under alteration or construction and maps of the ACT and surrounding region used for planning and delivery of services.

ACT Health may hold medical and client records within its many functional units. These include inpatient and outpatient records at the Canberra Hospital and health centres’ medical records and dental records. Access to these records may be gained under the Health Records (Privacy and Access) Act 1997.

ACT Health also produces, for public distribution, a number of pamphlets and brochures relating to health matters in the ACT and the surrounding region.

ACT Health will make available for purchase documents covered by section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 1989.

Freedom of Information procedures and initial contact points

ACT Health’s Freedom of Information (FOI) officer receives, monitors and coordinates all requests for documents held by the directorate. The FOI officer is located at Level 3, 11 Moore Street, Canberra City (phone 02 6205 1340). The FOI officer is available to members of the public from 9.00am to 4.00pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) for the lodgement of requests. Electronic requests can be sent to Executive_Co-ordination_unit@act.gov.au. Copies of documents to which access has been granted under the FOI Act may be forwarded to the applicant or may be inspected under supervision during office hours.

Processing guidelines

A copy of ACT Health’s FOI processing guidelines is provided to the Freedom of Information Decision Maker to assist in their deliberations. The FOI officer is able to assist decision makers in all aspects of processing applications, in accordance with the Act.

In accordance with the whole-of-government policy, the decision letter, schedule of documents and the related documents are to be made available in PDF format on the open government website within 15 days. The decision maker will identify ‘certain information’ that is not to be published in accordance with the Act.

No application fees are charged for FOI requests—however ACT Health applies processing in accordance with the Attorney General (Fees) Determination for applications that require in excess of 10 hours processing time and/or 200 pages of documents.

Section 8 statement

Section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 1989 requires the principal officer to prepare and make available each year a statement (which may be in the form of an index) specifying the documents that are provided by ACT Health for the purposes of an enactment or scheme administered by ACT Health. The statement can be made available to members of the public by contacting the principal officer.

Section 79 statement

The following tables summarise the results of FOI requests across ACT Health in 2012‑13, and the time taken to finalise requests.

 

Description  
Initial applications lodged
Partial access
Access refused
Full release
Technical refusal
Withdrawn
Transferred
Not yet finalised (as at 30 June 2013)
38
11
4
4
6
8
0
5
Reviews lodged (under section 59 of the Freedom of Information Act 1989)
Number upheld
Number partial access
Number overturned
Number not yet finalised (as at 30 June 2013)
4
1
2
1
0
Applications to ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal 0
Requests to amend records 0
Time taken to finalise requests
Less than 31 days
31–45 days
46–60 days (third party consultation)
61–90 days
More than 90 days

13
1
3
7
1