Case number: OIC-116655-Y4T7W3
25 January 2022
The applicant claims he attended TUH on the afternoon of 26 September 2007 between 2pm and 4pm complaining of pain in his back. He said he was admitted and was seen by a doctor who then sent him to the waiting room to wait for a specialist. He claims he waited until around 1am without being seen by any other doctor and that at this point he decided to leave the hospital. He said he returned on 27 September 2007 at 6am when he was seen by a doctor and was scheduled for an X-Ray by a specialist. On 12 May 2021, he sought all information related to his attendance at TUH emergency room on 26 September 2007.
In a decision dated 31 August 2021, TUH provided the applicant with a copy of the records of his attendance at the hospital on 27 September 2007. On 20 September 2021 the applicant requested an internal review of TUH’s decision explaining that the records received are not the ones he requested. He stated again that he was seeking the records for his initial attendance to the emergency room on 26 September 2007. In its internal review decision dated 24 November 2021, TUH affirmed its original decision and refused access to the records relating to 26 September 2007 under section 15(1)(a) of the FOI act on the basis that no such records could be found. On 26 November 2021, the applicant sought a review by this Office of TUH’s decision.
During the course of the review, the Investigating Officer sought submissions from TUH on the searches undertaken to locate the relevant records and a summary of those submissions were provided to the applicant. In response, the applicant maintained that he attended the hospital on 26 September 2007 and that records for this date ought to exist.
I have now completed my review in accordance with section 22(2) of the FOI Act. In carrying out my review, I have had regard to the submissions made by TUH and the applicant’s comments in his application for review and in further communications with this Office. I have decided to conclude this review by way of a formal, binding decision.
This review is concerned solely with whether TUH was justified, under section 15(1)(a) of the Act, in refusing access to records of the applicant’s attendance to TUH’s emergency department on 26 September 2007 on the grounds that no records for that specific date exist.
Section 15(1)(a) of the Act provides for the refusal of a request where the records sought do not exist or cannot be found after all reasonable steps to ascertain their whereabouts have been taken. The Commissioner's role in a case such as this is to review the decision of the FOI body and to decide whether that decision was justified. This means that I must have regard to the evidence available to the decision maker and the reasoning used by the decision maker in arriving at his/her decision and also must assess the adequacy of the searches conducted by the FOI body in looking for relevant records. The evidence in “search” cases generally consists of the steps actually taken to search for the records along with miscellaneous and other information about the record management practices of the FOI body, insofar as those practices relate to the records in question.
As I have outlined above, TUH provided this Office with details of searches it undertook in an effort to locate relevant records and of its reasons for concluding that no relevant records exist. While I do not propose to repeat the details in full here, I confirm that I have had regard to them for the purpose of this review.
In short, TUH explained its process of registration and storage of patient’s details. It explained that all patients are registered within its computer system called iPims and that this information is downloaded onto their Emergency Department computer system. It said no patient is seen without being registered.
TUH said searches were undertaken using the applicant’s surname, first name, date of birth, address and date of attendance. It said it also searched its financial system to see if a bill was created. It said the record of 27 September 2007 was located and released to the applicant but that no records were found for 26 September 2007.
Following receipt of the details of TUH’s submission, the applicant again maintained that he did, indeed, attend the emergency Department on 26 September 2007. However, he did not provide any other information to support his assertion that he attended on the day in question.
In the circumstances, and having considered the details of the searches undertaken by TUH and of its explanation as to why no relevant records could be found, I am satisfied that TUH has carried out all reasonable steps in an effort to locate the records sought in this case. Accordingly, I find that the TUH was justified in refusing, under section 15(1)(a) of the Act, the applicant’s request for records of his attendance at the emergency department on 26 September 2007 on the ground that no such records exist or can be found.
Having carried out a review under section 22(2) of the FOI Act, I hereby affirm TUH’s decision to refuse access, under section 15(1)(a) of the Act, to records of the applicant attendance at the hospital’s emergency department on 26 September 2007 on the basis that no such records exist or can found after all reasonable steps to ascertain their whereabouts have been taken.
Section 24 of the FOI Act sets out detailed provisions for an appeal to the High Court by a party to a review, or any other person affected by the decision. In summary, such an appeal, normally on a point of law, must be initiated not later than four weeks after notice of the decision was given to the person bringing the appeal.