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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 25, 2021 11:07 AM
From: Senator Doug Mastriano
To: All Senate members
Subject: Right to Know Reform: Disease Prevention & Control Law of 1955
Pennsylvania’s Disease Prevention and Control Law (1955) contains some extremely broad confidentiality language allowing the state Department of Health and county health agencies to withhold critical information from the public during times of emergency.
Here are just four of many examples:
In 2011, the Health Department rejected a request for depersonalized blood-lead test results. (Office of Open Records Docket No.: AP 2011-1040)
In 2015, the Health Department rejected a request for a copy of its report regarding an outbreak of Legionella cases at a Pennsylvania hospital. (OOR Docket No.: AP 2015-1323)
In 2018, the Health Department rejected a request seeking information about salmonella-contaminated chicken sold at a Pennsylvania restaurant. (OOR Docket No.: AP 2018-0987)
Finally, also in 2018, the Health Department rejected a request seeking information about whether any E. coli cases had been identified in two specific counties during the previous year. Shockingly, the Health Department also rejected the portion of that request seeking to learn “if E. coli was the cause of any deaths in Pennsylvania in 2017 and, if so, how many.” (OOR Docket No.: AP 2018-0049)
It is absurd and indefensible for the Health Department to reject requests for such vital public health information. None of these requests sought personally-identifiable information. Similarly, none of the requests sought records which would have endangered the public if released.

And yet, they were all rejected.

Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law already includes appropriate protections for the kinds of health records that should not be publicly available – such as records which include individual health information and records which would be reasonably likely to jeopardize or threaten public safety or preparedness.
In the near future, I will introduce legislation to remove these overly broad confidentiality provisions from the Disease Prevention & Control Act of 1955.

Specifically, my bill will amend Section 15 (“Confidentiality of Reports and Records”) to remove the existing standards and indicate that the Right-to-Know Law applies in their place.
Please join me in sponsoring this common-sense legislation which will make vital public health information available to our constituents.

Introduced as SB633